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Jnana (Sankalini 


Paramahamsa Prajnanananda 



Lord Shiva revealing the secrets of Tantra to Parvati 

The author being blessed by his Master 

Jnana Sankalini 





® Prajnana Mission 
First Edition 2004 

Paperback ISBN 3-902038-18-7 
Hardbound ISBN 3-902038-20-9 

Published by: Prajna Publication Diefenbachgasse 38/6, A-1150 Viexuia 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retreival system or 
transmitted in any form or by any means - Electronic, mechanical, 
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of 

British Library Catauxiuing in Publication Data 

Printed and distributed by Sai Towers Publishing, Bangalore. 


To the memory of my beloved Guruji, source of knowledge, 
infinite compassion and love, who taught me by his living 
example the qualities a teacher should cultivate and blessed me 
by making me a recipient of his wisdom. 

May this work be a reflection of his teaching, and prove a 
valuable tool along the road of self-enquiry. 

With boundless love, 


This book was the patient work of many years. No good work is 
accomplished without cooperative effort and the blessings of God 
and Gurus. My sincere love and appreciation to one and all who 
have helped me in various ways to bring out this book. 

God will bless them, 


PART I The Vedic Culture . 13 

The Science of Tantra . 15 

Definitions of Tantra . 16 

Misinterpretation through the Ages .19 

Consciousness and Energy . 20 

Tantric Literature . 21 

Integration between the Vedas and Tantra. 23 

The Sacred Trilogy .25 

Tantra as a Philosophy .27 

The Seven Steps . 30 

The Triple Qualities of Nature.34 

The Five Principles . 36 

Tables 1—4.48 

Spiritual Significance of the Cremation Ground.50 

Shava Sadhana . 51 

Munda Sadhana . 52 

Kapalika . 53 

Aghora Sadhana. 54 

Guru and Disciple . 54 

The Guru’s Role . 56 

The Disciple’s Role . 58 

Diksha . 60 

Ishta Devata . 62 

Ishta Mantra . 63 

Japa . 65 

Kundalini and the Chakras . 66 

Summary . 68 

PART II Introduction . 73 

Jnana Sankalini Tantra . 75 

Epilogue . 230 



Introduction to 
Jnana Sankalini Tantra 


The Vedic Culture 

When I was a young boy, living in a village in India, I came 
across a few practitioners of Tantra, known as tantrics. They 
wore distinctive red clothing, their bodies were smeared with 
ashes, supposedly collected from the cremation ground, their 
foreheads were lined with vermilion and they carried a damaru 
or tabor in their hand as well as a trumpet-shaped horn. Their 
eyes seemed to be permanently blood-shot and they wore 
rosaries around their necks, some even carried human skulls. 
Their ferocious appearance created fear in the minds of innocent 
people, especially small children, and many stories were told 
about their supernatural powers. 

Later in life I had the opportunity to meet some well-trained 
tantrics and was impressed with their practices and achievements. 
After I met my Gurudev many of my former doubts on Tantra 
disappeared. Under his guidance, I had the rare opportunity to study 
some of the tantric texts and delve into the corresponding scriptures 
with a meditative outlook. 

My beloved Gurudev taught me that life is an opportunity to 
manifest love, harmony, and peace. The combination of these qualities 
is known as divinity, and all religions and spiritual paths are designed 
to manifest this divine nature and help each individual reach the 
highest stage of realization. 

The Vedas are a storehouse of spiritual wisdom with no known 
individual authorship. The ancient ris his, by contemplation and 
meditation, handed down this sacred knowledge through oral tradition 
to enrich the spiritual life of generation after generation. The Vedic 
culture of spirituality and wholesome living predates recorded history 
and takes into account every aspect of human life including our 
overall physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development. 

At a later period Sage Vyasa compiled the Vedas and edited 
them into four major parts: Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva or 



Atharvana. These four Vedas became the source of various 
philosophical traditions and scriptures in India. Rig comes from 
the root word richa, which means ‘to pray’ or ‘to speak.’ The 
Rig Veda is the art of praying outwardly and inwardly. Yuj means 
‘to be united with divinity’ and yaj is ‘to worship.’ The Yajur 
Veda therefore, unites the seeker with divinity in holy worship. 
The Sama Veda brings all round harmony in every step of life 
while Atharva or Atharvana Veda (the source of Tantra) teaches 
us how to reach the ultimate goal of life through other means. 
The Vedas are also divided into two major sections: 

karma kanda or the Path of Action, 
jhana kanda or the Path of Knowledge. 

Every individual has immense spiritual potential waiting to be 
tapped through either of these paths otherwise known as nigama. 
These sacred texts lead a devotee towards the attainment of 
perfection and the manifestation of one’s inherent divinity. The 
Path of Action is extremely elaborate and systematic. It involves 
many ritualistic practices that help a seeker to achieve inner 
purification. The Path of Knowledge contained in the last part of 
the Vedas is also known as Vedanta or the Upanishads and highlights 
the philosophical and intellectual understanding of life itself and 
the goals to be achieved through self-enquiry and meditation. 

The fourth Veda or Atharvana was revealed in order to make 
the ritualistic practices simpler and more readily accessible to 
the average person. One of the particular disciplines that the 
Atharvana Veda sets out is known as Tantra. 

The Vedas include the two notions of nigama and agama, both 
words go back to the root verb gam, which means ‘to go,’ ‘to acquire,’ 
or ‘to obtain.’ Both paths are intended to help human evolution and 
uncover the spiritual treasure hidden within each human being. In 
time, Tantra evolved as a distinct spiritual practice with its own texts, 
scriptures, interpretations, and teachers. 



The Science of Tantra 

The Vedas, otherwise known as nigama, are considered the 
compilation of all knowledge. From this sacred source emanates the 
science of Tantra, which is also called agama. The Vedas describe 
ways to obtain knowledge, whereas the Tantras emphasize sincere 

Tantra is a universal method or practice (sadhana) developed to 
bring God into our life and can be followed irrespective of any 
religion. Tantra has endured much notoriety and has been misused 
because of wide misinterpretation and emphasis on the ability to 
acquire occult powers. Without the proper understanding of the nature 
and mode of practice, these abilities are usually used merely to 
procure elusive enjoyment and can be short lived. In reality Tantra 
is a highly regulated and disciplined path. Tantric practices were 
not only developed to address the minor misfortunes and practicality 
of everyday life, but to ultimately help the seeker gain spiritual 
enlightenment and Self-realization. 

agatam Siva vaktre ca gatam ca girija Srutau 
matam ca vasudevasya tenagama iti smrtah 

“That which proceeds from the mouth of Shiva and enters into the 
ears of Girija (Parvati or Shakti) and that which is the opinion of 
Vasudeva is known as agama.” 

In this way the supreme knowledge of Lord Shiva, taught to 
Parvati for the purpose of self-evolution, is known as agama. 

sarvartha yena tanyante trayante ca bhayat janan 
iti tantrasya tantratvam tantrajna paricaksate 

“It is Tantra, as described by its masters, that bestows all goals 
and liberates a person from all fear.” 

Human life is burdened by hurdles and difficulties. Every 
individual seeks to be rid of trouble, disease, and worry. With a 
proper focus and an attitude of non-attachment, any problem 



can be overcome. Mastering the science of Tantra helps to 
diminish suffering and eventually reach liberation. The practice 
of Tantra incorporates three aspects: 

1) Ritualistic practices, 

2) Esoteric, meditative practices, 

3) A philosophical outlook towards life. 

The guru knows, according to the individual makeup and capacity 
of each student, what steps or techniques will best hasten one’s 
spiritual evolution. The teachings are imparted with the disciple’s 
highest good in mind and consist of very precise analyzed methods 
that should be followed exactly as they are taught. The disciple is 
given the tools or technology necessary to achieve the highest stage 
of realization. Tantra claims that through sincere effort and the 
strongest desire, liberation is possible within a single human lifetime. 

Definitions of Tantra 

The word Tantra can be interpreted in several ways. It is originally 
derived from the root verb tan, which means ‘continuation,’ 
‘diffusion,’ and ‘expansion.’ Its practice is designed to expand 
spiritual experience and acquire a higher level of consciousness. 
Another root of Tantra is tantr, which means ‘to rule,’ ‘to govern,’ 
‘to control,’ ‘to perform,’ and ‘to keep in order.’ In this way, through 
a disciplined and highly regulated spiritual life, Tantra is a means to 
expand individual consciousness into universal consciousness. 

tvam atra tatra sarvatra iti tantra 

“O God! You are here, there, and everywhere, such experience is 


A highly advanced spiritual seeker is able to experience God 
in all and all in God. Only a tranquil mind with a universal 
outlook can grasp this state. 



sarva jnanaraji vistarena vistrnoti 
yat sastram tat tantra sastram 

“The scripture of Tantra is such that it enables one to widen 
the periphery of knowledge.” 

Knowledge is strength and brings a seeker to the door of 
liberation. Knowledge, in tantric terms, is the result of action and 
becomes the seed of supreme love. Once this seed is implanted in 
the heart of a suitable person it is ever expanding. Another definition 
of Tantra is that it is the art of gaining freedom from the cage of the 
three bodies. Each human being, i.e., the soul, is the child of God 
housed in a shrine, the body temple. The body is not one but three: 
gross (physical), astral (mind), and causal (ignorance). Through the 
practice of a spiritual life, filled with devotion, a devotee can obtain 
detachment from one’s body and experience the latent divinity 
already existing within. The soul’s journey is from the un-manifested 
stage to the manifested stage and then back again to the un¬ 
manifested stage. 

tanu traya tarana iti tantra 

“The state of freedom from attachment to the three bodies.” 

tarn trana karoti iti tantra 
“Tantra is the scripture of liberation.” 

Ignorance is the cause of suffering and attachment. Knowledge 
brings liberation because it dispels the darkness of ignorance. 
Expansion (tan) and contraction have to do with the breath and are 
correlated to life and death respectively. Narrowness in mind, heart, 
and expression is the cause of suffering, while expansion in love 
and understanding leads to abiding peace and liberation. Breath is 
the external manifestation of life. In every disposition your breath 
changes. A normal breath is every four seconds. Extreme emotion 
makes you gasp or pant. Rapid breathing, at an interval of one to 



five every two seconds, portrays strong emotion such as anger 
and passion, which only lead to suffering. When the duration of 
the breath is prolonged and expanded, inner peace and calmness 
can be achieved. If tan means ‘expansion,’ trana means 
‘liberation,’ so tantra is a path to liberation through expansion 
or prolongation of the breath. This facilitates an amplified 
capacity to understand the deeper meaning of life. 

The common goal of all religions is addressed in different 
terms. In Hinduism it is known as moksha, in Buddhism it is 
called nirvana, and in Christianity it is thought of as entering 
the Kingdom of Heaven. Nirvana, in Sanskrit, is translated as 
extreme tranquility leading to a breathless state. In the Gospel 
of John, Jesus says God should be worshipped “in spirit and 
truth.” In Latin, ‘spirit’ can also mean ‘breath.’ In other words, 
the Kingdom of Heaven is to be experienced within through 
breath-control and self-discipline. To attain the universal goal 
of abiding peace and happiness and liberation, it is necessary to 
use the tantric tool of expansion through breath regulation. Tantra 
provides a method by which the breath can be expanded to 
hasten spiritual evolution. A normally active, healthy individual 
breathes an average of 21,600 times a day. Through a disciplined 
lifestyle and the art of breath-control, this can be reduced to 
2,000 times a day. My own beloved Guruji, Paramahamsa 
Hariharananda, repeatedly instructed, 

“Breath control is self-control. 

Breath mastery is self-mastery. 

Breathless stage is deathless stage.” 

Tantra is a sadhana, which employs a systematic step-by- 
step approach with a rigorous physical and psychological 
discipline that brings about the over-all development of the 
individual. Tantra is not only a spiritual discipline but it is also a 
regulated path, open to all religions, that seeks to bring God 
into every day life by developing a universal outlook. 



Misinterpretation through the Ages 

With the passage of time, the real meaning of Tantra and tantric 
practices has been widely misunderstood. As it was handed down 
through the ages, a myth based on misconception began to spread. 
Tantra was believed to be a secret art for acquiring magical and 
occult powers and was demeaned as just a tool for prolonging 
the capacity of enjoyment through the senses. It was commonly 
believed that tantrics did not lead a self-disciplined life because 
their primary goal was self-gratification. They were accused of 
having supernatural powers and using hypnotism to obtain 
whatever they desired. Tantra is scientific, there are no more 
magical elements in it than in any other discipline; e.g., electricity 
would appear magic to a man living in the Stone Age. 

Erotic imagery on early Indian temples has perplexed scholars 
and historians for centuries. The male-female union form as seen in 
temple walls, sculptures, and paintings in caves in India is not erotic 
art. Yet if seen only at the ordinary level of understanding, this image 
might seem to confirm so many of the longstanding misperceptions 
about Tantra as evidence of a practice that incorporates sexuality 
into worship. Nothing could be further from the truth. The form 
represents the manifestation of the highest spiritual attainment as the 
union of consciousness with God or the Absolute. 

As a spiritual discipline it has a lot more to offer than meets 
the eye. The Sadhana Shastra (practical spiritual text) handed down 
from the Vedas provides a vast scope of learning, a deep 
understanding of life, and practical steps for leading a life of self- 
discipline in order to attain Self-realization. Tantra was 
misinterpreted because such symbolic teaching, full of deep inner 
meanings and metaphorical connotations, cannot be fully 
understood without the help of a true guide. Scanty knowledge 
and literal interpretation always produces poor results, and Tantra 
has suffered at the hands of misguided people, willing to believe 
that as a spiritual science, it is much less than it really is. 



Consciousness and Energy 

Shiva is the most important aspect of the Hindu trinity. From 
the Vedic period. Lord Shiva is worshipped as the bestower of 
liberation and the source of all knowledge. 

jnanam maheSvarat ichhet 
“Seek knowledge from Shiva.” 

The Parshurama Kalpasutra, a treatise on spirituality and 
Tantra, highlights Shiva’s role as the master of knowledge: 

bhagavana parama Siva bhattaraka Srutyadi astadaSa vidyah 
sarvani darSanani lilaya tattadavasthapanah praniya samvinmaya 
bhagavatya bhairavya svatmavinnay’a prstah pancabhih mukhaih 
pancamnayam paramartha sarabhutam praninaya 
(Sutra 2) 

“Lord Parama Shiva Bhattaraka teaches eighteen vidyas 

including the Vedas, which are all branches of philosophy 

with a logical approach, to Parvati. Bhairava, with his five 
mouths, symbolize the five paths essential for the 
improvement of the life of others.” 

Shiva is considered the master of the eighteen vidyas, which 
are branches of classical knowledge and include: Phonetics, the 
Science of Language, Ritual, Prosody (verse forms and poetic 
meters), Astronomy, Etymology, Investigation (Mimamsa), 
Logic, History (Purana), Ethics (Dharmashastra), Medicine, the 
Science of War, Fine Arts, Politics (Niti Shastra), and the four 
Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva). Shiva is the illustrious 
master of Tantra, Yoga, Music, and Knowledge. Through his 
guidance he enables the spiritual seeker to attain inner perfection 
and ultimately liberation. 

In all mythological descriptions Shiva is a householder yogi 
and lives with his divine consort, Parvati and their two sons Ganesha 
and Kartikeya. In tantric practices both Shiva and Parvati are 



worshipped together, since the former represents consciousness 
and the latter, in the form of shakti, symbolizes energy. In tantric 
meditation, inner bliss can be obtained by arousing latent energy 
in the body temple and uniting it with Shiva. Tantra uplifts 
consciousness in order to embrace the cosmic spirit. 

Since energy or shakti is feminine in nature, tantrics worship 
the Divine Mother. A mother’s love is unconditional and she 
has a pivotal role in the child’s existence. A baby is nurtured 
and thrives under her care. Whatever is learned during the early 
stages of life from the mother or a ‘mother figure,’ will stay 
imprinted in the child’s memory for life. Tantra’s objective is to 
evoke a mother’s love in the mind of the aspirant so as to stimulate 
the heart’s natural love and transform that inert energy into 
dynamic kinetic energy. Shakti (Parvati) and Lord Shiva can 
then join in a state of supreme union. 

Tantric Literature 

There are approximately 192 known tantric texts available. 
Aryavarta or mythological India was divided, according to tantric 
belief, into three regions, each responsible for sixty-four Tantras. 
The first region, Rathakranta, ran from the Vindhya Mountains in 
Central India all the way to Rameshvara in the South. The second 
region, Ashvakranta, extended from Uttarakhanda (the 
Himalayas) to the Vindhyas stretching all the way to the East 
(Bengal and Assam). The last region, Vishnukranta, covered the 
other side, extending from Uttarakhanda to the Vindhyas, all the 
way to the Western provinces of Rajastan and Gujarat. 

Most tantric texts are still unpublished, but many original 
manuscripts have been preserved in the British Library and the 
Library for Oriental Studies in Kolkata, India. Tantric- texts aFe 
broadly classified into two separate sections: 

1) The Yamala, 

2) The Damara. 



The Yamala Tantra contains the secret conversations between 
different deities and their respective consorts. The word yamala 
literally means ‘twins,’ ‘united,’ or a ‘couple.’ The Yamala Tantra 
includes texts on Rudrayamala, Vishnuyamala, Brahmayamala, 
Lakshmiyamala, Umayamala, Skandayamala, Adityayamala, and 
Bhairavayamala, among many others. 

The Damara Tantra is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his mystical 
teachings. Damara has several meanings, it stands for ‘goblin’ or ‘an 
attendant of Shiva,’ but it also means ‘wonder.’ The Damara Tantra 
includes Yogadamara, Shivadamara, Durgadamara, Saras vatadamara, 
Gandharvadamara, Brahmadamara, and many more. 

At the start of worship during Hindu ritualistic practices, the five 
principal deities pancha devata puja (Ganapati, Durga, Surya, Shiva, 
and Vishnu) are mentioned in sequence. Based on this tradition, 
five groups of tantric texts, associated with these five deities, were 

1) The Ganapatya Tantra is associated with Ganapati and 
Lord Ganesha; 

2) The Shakta Tantra is related to Devi, in the form of Durga 
and Kali; 

3) The Saura Tantra is related to Surya, the sun god; 

4) The Shaiva Tantra concerns Shiva or Mahakala Bhairava, 
also known as Shaivagama Samhita; 

5) The Vaishnava Tantra is about Vishnu, Krishna, Gopala, 
and others, as in Pancharatra. 

There are many tantric texts belonging to the Buddhist 
tradition particularly Tibetan Buddhism, where they are referred 
to as the Apocalyptic or Tantric Vehicle, or Vajrayana. Many of 
these texts are attributed to the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. 
Worship is dedicated to Tara Devi, a tantric goddess, and there 
is a predominant use of mantras as well as other ritualistic 
practices. These texts include the Manjucrimulakalpa, the Guhya 
Samaja Tantra, the Songs of Milarepa, the Caryagitas, and others. 



Integration between the Vedas and Tantra 

Tantra respects the dictum of the Vedas and provides a physical, 
psychological, and spiritual discipline, in the form of sadhanas, 
to accomplish this higher purpose. Historically, Vedic study and 
practices became restricted to a selected group of people, namely, 
priests and the elite class. Tantra had the advantage of remaining 
more universal and accessible to anyone wanting spiritual 
progress. Tantra puts no bar on caste, gender, or religious belief. 
It is the shared overall goal of what is the upliftment of the 
individual in order to embrace the cosmic spirit. 

The Vedas and Tantra are considered complimentary to each 
other. In revered scriptures such as the Mahabharata and the 
Bhagavatam, there are descriptions of Tantra, underlining its 
benefits for the attainment of Self-realization. Tantra contains a 
vast field of spiritual wisdom with elaborate instructions on how 
to live a spiritual life, and through the implementation of mental 
and physical discipline, achieve moksha or liberation. Tantra 
provides a pragmatic approach combined with a firm philosophical 
foundation. It is a systematic step-by-step evolutionary process. 

The four main padas (steps) of Tantra are the following: 

1) Jhanapada or the path of Self-knowledge, 

2) Yogapada or the path of self-discipline, 

3) Kriyapada or the path of spiritual practice, 

4) Caryapada or the path of spiritual evolution. 

Jnanapada or the step towards Self-knowledge highlights the 
philosophy of Tantra and the metaphysics which uphold the entire 
structure. Tantra is a beautiful combination of Vedantic truth and 
samkhya (scriptural) principles. Jnanapada points the way for the 
spiritual seeker to reach the highest goal of life, the experience of 
divine love and liberation, through understanding and contemplation. 

Yogapada includes sadhanas or ‘spiritual disciplines,’ which give 
sacred knowledge its practical meaning. Yoga is the application of 



Vedanta, enabling the sadhaka (seeker) to attain divine communion 
with the Supreme Self. Yoga and Tantra are closely correlated. While 
Yoga brings harmony in life and union with the Divine, Tantra 
accelerates this process through a more pragmatic understanding. 
Yoga and Tantra both utilize the chakras and similar techniques 
such as mudras (posture or gesture of body and hands) and 
pranayama (breath regulation). The most powerful technique Yoga 
and Tantra have in common is to waken the kundalini, or the latent 
spiritual energy, which lies untapped in every human being. 

Kriyapada covers any form of community worship in sacred 
places, pilgrimages, sacrifices, and fire rituals. Its deeper meaning, 
however, is to perform every activity in God-consciousness. Every 
action in the external world, whether within the family, in the 
confines of society, or in the midst of natural surroundings, is 
considered Kriya. To evolve spiritually, harmony must be 
incorporated in every aspect and activity of life. Kriya combines 
a spiritual outlook with pragmatic behaviour. 

Caryapada, derived from the word carya, means to observe 
personal discipline in daily life. A code of conduct is established, 
serving as a model for all spiritual aspirants and covering every 
activity from morning until night. There are additional rituals 
practiced at specific times during the day, and throughout the 
calendar year. This step also dwells on such topics as the process 
of creation, the nature of evolution, and the transmission of the 
different modes of speech from para (supreme thought), to 
pashyanti (cognition), to madhyama (intermittent thought 
process), until vaikhari or the audible word is spoken. 

Caryapada also teaches akshara tattva or the philosophy of letters. 
It disseminates knowledge on the practical use of mantras (sacred 
syllables) and the symbolism behind yantras (geometric symbols). 
Additionally, it offers guidance on principles relating to different deities 
and gives instruction on diverse modes of worship and meditation. 
Caryapada is a treasure chest of valuable guidance and information, 
and it has been aptly named the path of spiritual evolution. 



The Sacred Trilogy 

The Hindu Trinity consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, 
represents creation, sustenance, and dissolution. All of life’s 
activities correspond to these three aspects of creation. Past, 
present, and future are also associated with creation and its 
subsequent phases of manifestation and destruction. The principal 
scriptures of Hinduism are the Trayi Veda or Three Vedas: Rig, 
Yajur, and Sama. There are also three modes of expression: song, 
poetry, and prose, as well as three paths for spiritual evolution: 
karma or action, jnana or knowledge, and bhakti or devotion. 
The Prasthana Trayee is a beautiful combination of three sacred 
texts, the Gita, the Brahmasutras, and the Upanishads, which 
propound spiritual evolution. 

Vedic, yogic, and tantric literature incorporates three levels of 
language: loukiki or traditional, sahitya or literal, and tattviki/ 
samadhi or metaphorical. The guidance of a qualified guru is 
absolutely essential in order to understand the inner meaning of 
the scriptures, as only through rigorous training in addition to deep 
contemplation can the hidden message be accurately deciphered. 

Tantric texts tend to be very complex and are often misleading 
when they are taken literally. Some concepts have been perverted 
and exaggerated resulting in only sensuous interpretations, but 
Tantra hides many spiritual truths, which remain unrevealed to 
those who only float on the surface. Tantra, as it has often been 
interpreted in the West, with the wrong emphasis on sexuality, 
has been grossly deformed and considerably diminished as a 
scriptural source of wisdom. 

Tantric practices integrate three concepts known as yantra, 
mantra, and tantra, which need to be fully understood, literally, 
mystically, and metaphysically, before plunging deeper into the 

The word yantra comes from the root verb yam, meaning ‘to 
subdue,’ ‘control,’ or ‘eliminate.’ The word itself is usually interpreted 



as an instrument or tool used for a special purpose. In ritualistic 
worship Hindus draw geometrical shapes, engraving them on 
prescribed metals (copper, silver, or gold) or stone. One common 
shape is the triangle; with the apex pointing upwards it represents the 
male aspect and one pointing down represents the feminine. The 
union of the two, formed by superimposing them, is a hexagon or 
six-pointed star. Devotees also use coloured powder to draw exquisite 
designs on the floor, a sand surface, a piece of paper, or even a leaf. 

The word yama is derived from the same root verb. In the Yoga 
Sutras of Patanjali, yama is the first of the eight limbs of Yoga 
(meaning ‘non-injury’ and ‘self-restraint’). Yogis represent the 
chakras in the spine as geometrical drawings. Tantrics use varied 
geometric patterns to represent deities or the many different aspects 
of life and as aids in meditation. Like the yantra, the egg-shaped 
brahmanda, the globe-shaped saligrama and the shivalinga, found 
mostly in stone and used for ritual, manifest a realization of the 
wholeness of the universe with its all-pervading subtle aspect. 

Every deity in the Hindu religion has a yantra and a special 
mantra. Yantra is a symbolic way of worshipping a deity with a 
known form, while also recognizing the formless aspect. The 
presence of the deity is invoked through prayer and chanting of 
a mantra in an oral tradition handed down directly by the guru. 
This is part of the diksha or upadesha (instruction or initiation), 
which the guru transmits to the disciple. 

Mantras are holy words used in spiritual practice according 
to the directions of the guru. Etymologically, man-tra comes 
from the word manana, which means ‘reflection’ or 
‘contemplation,’ and tra, which signifies ‘liberation’ or 
‘protection.’ Mantra has, therefore, two separate interpretations. 
It protects the seeker by deflecting difficulties and also operates 
as a form of contemplation and concentration, which grant 
liberation. Mantras date far back in time to the very origin of 
the Vedas. Every stanza in the Upanishads is also known as a 
mantra. Mantras are known as vaidika (if the source is Veda), 



or tantrika (if the source is Tantra). Mantra Vidya is the science 
that teaches how and at which time to use a mantra. Vaidika 
mantras have restrictions concerning who, what, where, and 
when, whereas tantric mantras are generally short and simple, 
without any strict specifications. This weighs in the favor of tantric 
mantras, making them more universally accepted and applicable. 

Tantric mantras are full of vijaksharas or ‘root and seed’ 
mantras, making them extremely powerful. They are not prayers 
but rather a mystical formula combining different letters or a 
single syllable full of deep spiritual significance. It is called 
nadabrahma, a sound symbol embodying form or formless with 
tremendous power to arouse consciousness in a person. 

On the deeper metaphysical level the body or tool becomes 
yantra, the senses are tantra and living in God-consciousness is 
mantra. A life of discipline immersed in God, becomes inner Tantra. 

Tantra as a Philosophy 

Tantra traces its roots back to the Vedas, and through the 
ages it has evolved into a simplified and popular form of Vedic 
philosophy. Tantra is a synthesis of Vedanta, Samkhya, 
Purvamimamsa, and Yoga. 

Samkhya introduces the concepts of prakriti and purusha\ prakriti 
being the inert nature or material cause, and purusha the efficient 
cause. Maya, in the Vedanta, is portrayed in the Shvetashvatara 
Upanishad (4:10) as anirvachaniya, an entity ‘without any description’ 
or without beginning, nescient, inexplicable, and illusory. 

In Vedanta, it is essential to be free from the illusive power of 
maya to be in truth, whereas in Tantra, maya (in the form of shakti) 
is accepted as a sacred principle necessary to experience reality 
and truth. In reality prakriti, maya, and shakti are the same. 

In Tantra, shakti is also known as mahamaya or prakriti maya 
and it is portrayed as the dynamic aspect through which it is possible 



to achieve the supreme state of realization. Shakti is translated 
as energy and strength. The Upanishads instruct that a person 
with strength can reach the supreme goal; therefore, tantrics 
concentrate on the worship of shakti, the supreme energy. 

In Samkhya, the ultimate reality is the purusha, which is 
essentially the real cause of all activity. The Vedanta explains this in 
the following way: 

ekam eva advitiyam brahma 
“Brahman is the one without a second.” 

Brahman is portrayed here as outstanding in his singleness. He 
stands far and alone. In contrast, Tantra uses the name of Shiva as 
paramashiva (Supreme Shiva). Samkhya gives us the example of 
purusha and prakriti, Vedanta mentions Brahman and maya, and 
Tantra describes the play of Shiva and Shakti, different ways .of 
describing the same phenomenon. 

The relationship between Shiva and Shakti is like fuel and 
fire; water and its cooling nature; potential and kinetic energy; a 
word and its meaning. They are at once one, and one in two. 
Each one is such an integral part of the other, that they are 
completely inseparable. The inactive state is Shiva, and when it 
becomes active, it turns into Shakti. Shiva is formless, but Shakti 
has a form. In some tantric texts as well as in the Puranas, Shiva 
is described symbolically as ardhanarishvara, half male and 
half female, one being with two manifestations. 

According to tantric philosophy, God had no attributes before 
creation ( nirguna parameshvara) and shakti remained latent and 
inherent. When shakti was awakened from the dormant stage, God 
acquired attributes ( saguna ). Thus, the first state in the process of 
creation is shakti. From shakti emanated paranada, the un-manifested 
sound or vibration, and the sound generated parabindu, or the upper 
point. From the highest point stemmed aparabindu, or the lower 
point, which is identified as The Shiva Principle. After this stage 



came bija (the seed), source of the twenty-four cosmic principles. 
From the seed sprung aparanada, or the lower sound or vibration, 
which is considered the union of Shiva and Shakti. Aparabindu, or 
lower point, is none other than Shiva himself, from whom the five 
principal deities emerge: Sadashiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ishana, and 
Rudra. ( SeeTable 4, page 50.) 

Creation of life was divided into four types. From the first stage 
arose all the organisms that grew out of sweat and moisture. Plants 
that germinated from seeds were the second stage. Animals that 
sprouted from eggs comprised the third stage and last of all came 
the animals, including humans, who are bom from a fetus. The 
same universal soul is present in all, but each individual soul is 
known as jiva. In reality, every jiva is in truth Shiva, but because of 
ignorance, we are unable to experience our divine nature and merge 
in universal awareness. Through the practice of self-discipline, 
meditation, japa, puja, and allied rituals, the mind is cleansed and 
becomes free from such limitations. When a spiritual seeker is able 
to fully comprehend one’s latent spirituality, jiva becomes Shiva. 

Tantric texts, as well as the Vedanta and yogic literature all 
coincide in the description that the three bodies (gross, astral, and 
causal), making up every individual, are in reality just like three 
separate layers of clothes concealing the luminous soul. 

The gross body stems from the five elements; earth, water, fire, 
air, and space, and will — after its demise — disintegrate back to 
these same elements. Since the gross body is physical and tangible 
in nature, it is subject to the perception of the five sense organs: 
sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. The gross body has limited 
capabilities and it is finite in essence. 

The astral body is psychological in nature and the mind — with 
its components of memory, thoughts, ego, and emotions — plays a 
dominant role. The astral body consists of nineteen limbs; the five 
organs of action, the five organs of perception, the five pranas or 
vital breaths, and the four inner instruments (the mind, intellect, 



ego, and memory). Since the astral body is subtle and moves in 
the realm of feelings and imagination, the area of its activities is 
quite broad. 

The causal body is the last wrapping of the embodied soul. It 
is the cause of bondage, but carries within it the seed of liberation. 
Due to ignorance, human beings are condemned to a recurrent cycle 
of birth-death-rebirth, but once seekers become empowered to lift 
the veil and discover the unity of the universal soul, they experience 
the joy of liberation. At this point all three bodies dissolve, becoming 
one with the Absolute. 

In tantric texts, these three bodies are described as om tat sat. 
The gross body is om, represented in the five lower chakras. ( See 
Table 1, page 48.) The astral body is tat, travelling between the 
center of knowledge ( vishuddha chakra ) and the soul center ( ajna 
chakra). The causal body is sat, and can only be felt while 
immersed in the sahasrara chakra, or the abode of God inside 
the cranium just below the crown of the head. 

The Seven Steps 

Tantric texts are vast, complex, and extremely elaborate, creating 
differences in both understanding and practice. There are seven modes 
of practice ( achara ) related to sadhana, which represent the seven 
steps in order to progress in the spiritual path. Each step must be 
integrated into daily life and coupled with belief, faith ( vishvasa ), and 
devotion to God, in order to reach the goal. ( See Table 2, page 49) 

The first step is Vedachara, or Vedic practice. The Vedas are 
considered the source of knowledge and philosophical principles, 
and since the tantric tradition is grounded in the Vedas, a tantric’s 
life is based on Vedantic teachings. The scriptures promulgate that a 
daily routine must be implanted in a disciplined way. As a first step, 
a spiritual seeker should wake up every morning at dawn, perform 
inward and outward cleansing, chant some specific mantras according 



to the prescribed manner, follow a regulated diet, and practice 
moderation in sexual activities. This strict mode of conduct is 
designed to prepare a devotee for the rigors of spiritual life. 

The second step, Vaishnavachara or Vaishnavite practice, is 
centered on Lord Vishnu. At this stage spiritual vows have to be 
taken which include: no conjugal life, no violence or cruelty, no 
blame or accusation, no falsehood, no ritualistic practices at night. 
Devotees try to immerse their whole life in divinity with the profound 
understanding that the entire creation is none other than a 
manifestation of Lord Vishnu. 

In the third step, Shaivachara or Shaivite practice. Lord Shiva is 
considered the presiding deity. By meditating on Shakti, the divine 
state of Shiva is experienced since Shiva and Shakti are one and the 
same. Behind every work, the seeker is conscious that Shiva is the 
real doer. There must be no trace of cruelty, even to animals. 
Since Lord Shiva is considered to have his abode in the cremation 
grounds, tantric rituals are practiced there. This form of devotion 
cultivates the perception of Shiva as the indwelling Self. 

The fourth step, Dakshinachara, is known as the practice with 
the right hand or favorable path. In this mode of worship, the 
seeker must perform all rituals with the right hand. The presiding 
deity is Dakshinakali, whose right foot, significantly, is slightly 
forward as she stands on Shiva’s chest. Practitioners of this path 
follow prescribed modes of sadhana and the vamashrama system, 
based on castes and the four stages of life. It is essential to have 
faith, devotion, perception of inner energies, and a focused 
attention on sat cit ananda Brahma, since Brahman is the ‘source 
of reality, consciousness, and absolute bliss.’ 

The fifth step, Vamachara, is the left-handed path involving vama 
or woman. It is sometimes called the unfavourable path, but this 
needs to be understood properly. In this sadhana, tantrics worship 
Kali, the Mother Divine, whose left foot is placed slightly in front 
as she stands on Shiva’s chest. The seeker, therefore, uses the left 



hand in all ritualistic practices. It has been called ‘unfavourable’ 
because through this mode of practice negative propensities can 
be overcome very quickly. While ordinary people follow the way 
of pleasure and enjoyment, considering this to be favourable; a 
true spiritual seeker does the opposite and follows a seemingly 
unfavourable or difficult path, which involves renunciation and 
detachment, but is, however, rewarding in the end. 

Many tantric practitioners consider themselves as bhairava or 
attendants of Shiva, and keep a bhairavi or female practitioner as a 
co-seeker. Within family life a wife can also participate in this mode 
of practice. In this way, a couple with purity of mind, expressed in 
thoughts, words, and deeds, will progress together in the spiritual 
field. The path of Vamachara is also known as Chinachara. Sage 
Vasistha is believed to have introduced it after his travels in Indonesia, 
Tibet, and China. In the course of time, many Buddhists and Tibetans 
practiced this path in order to reach liberation. 

The sixth step, Siddhantachara, is the path of contemplation 
and meditation. Siddhanta means ‘truth,’ ‘concepts,’ and 
‘conclusion.’ The spiritual seeker is no longer involved in 
external rituals, time and energy are instead devoted to inner 
contemplation and growth. Mental practice and discipline are 
the means to obtain realization. 

The seventh and last step is known as Kaulachara or practice 
according to the Kaulas. Another name is Kaula Marga or the 
path of the Kaulas. The metaphorical interpretation of kula is a 
combination between ku ‘the earth’ or brahmashakti (manifested 
power of God) and la, which represents ‘the seed’ or bija. Kula 
is equivalent to shakti and through worship of the Divine Mother, 
source of all energy, supernatural experiences, and liberation 
are attained. In this practice, attention is focused on the kundalini 
shakti, also called kula kundalini. 

Lord Shiva is known as akula. The joining of kula kundalini 
with akula is the union of Shiva and Shakti in the thousand- 
petal lotus located in the crown of the head. Such a feat is only 



accomplished through rigorous spiritual discipline, as energy 
must be channeled upwards to reach the source of life, akula 
becoming the ultimate attainment. In other words, through the 
practice of self-discipline and meditation, the dormant energy 
is manifested in the nine aspects of life. Otherwise known as 
navakula, these are: 

Jiva tattva the principle of the individual soul, 

Prakriti tattva the principle of nature, containing twenty-four 

Dik the principle of ten directions, such as north, 

south, east, and west; the four comers north¬ 
east, north-west, south-east, south-west; 
above and below, 

Kala the principle of time, both in relative and absolute 


Kshiti the earth element in the body, which regulates 

our relationship with the material world 
(the earth element is in the muladhara chakra ), 

Apa the principle of water (the water element is in 

the svadhisthana chakra ), 

Teja the principle of fire, represented by energy 

or strength (the fire element is in the manipura 
chakra ), 

Vayu the principle of air represented by the breath 

or prana (the air element is in the anahata 

Akasha or the principle of space, outside and inside, 

experienced in meditation (the space element 
is in the vishuddha chakra). 



The Triple Qualities of Nature 

Spiritual life is an evolutionary process from animality to 
rationality and ultimately to the state of divinity. Each individual 
is potentially divine, but our divine qualities often remain un¬ 
manifested. Spiritual evolution arouses the latent divinity that lies 
dormant within us in order to reach a state of perfection. According 
to Vedanta, creation ( maya ) is pervaded by three governing 
qualities. By their permutation and combination an infinite variety 
of names, forms, and qualities are created. These aspects are also 
operating within each individual and make that person distinct 
from all others. Every individual has a predominant nature 
operating at any given time. These triple qualities of nature are: 

tamas guna (inert/dull), characterized by laziness and 
a constant need for sleep, 

rajas guna (aggressive/ambitious), identified by activity 

and enthusiasm, 

sattva guna (calm/spiritual), full of peace, happiness, 
and universal love. 

The journey of a seeker is like climbing a ladder, and each, 
according to one’s intent and qualities is assessed to have reached a 
specific rung. Significant are the qualities and attitudes, bhavas, of 
the seeker in determining each level. Tantric literature emphasizes 
three major bhavas: 

Pashu bhava animalistic behaviour determined by instincts 
and emotion, 

Vira bhava heroic behaviour portrayed as awareness in 
the midst of struggle, manifested in persistent 

Divya bhava divinity, manifested in supreme love for all 
creation; an attitude of peace, bliss, and joy. 



At the pashu bhava stage tantric seekers tend to follow ritualistic 
practices in a literal way. The tamasic quality in their nature is usually 
predominant. They practice rituals in order to gain temporary 
pleasures and occult powers such as vashikarana, or mental control 
over others; marana, or the ability to create trouble for others; mohana, 
or hypnotic power, and so on. These powers come almost 
automatically when the capacity to concentrate and control the mind 
has been perfected, but they should not be sought after or used because 
they block the way to liberation. Tantrics that become absorbed in 
physical pleasure, material gain, and worldly power are chained to 
the lowest level. A pashu bhava seeker dwells in one’s animal nature, 
which is full of unsublimated passions of the lowest order. 

The vira bhava stage is more evolved since the rajasic mind is 
more purified than the tamasic mind. At this point tantric seekers use 
symbolic practices in order to grow spiritually. The rajasic quality in 
their nature plays a major role due to an active inner struggle for 
improvement. The rajasic mind tries to cultivate virtues, and this implies 
enormous self-effort. Rajasic people are focused on the psychological 
and ‘astral’ aspects of their nature and interested in supernatural powers 
of a higher order such as anima, mahima, laghuma, or the art of 
experiencing oneself as very small or unusually large, extremely light 
or terribly heavy. Some rajasic people evolve and grow to become 
effortlessly established in the divine state of divya bhava. 

The divya bhava stage is the highest form of tantric practice. 
There are no external manifestations or futile attempts to gain 
occult powers. Pivoted on the sattvic, such tantrics focus on mental 
worship in a state of deep meditation. They try to go beyond birth 
and death, and merge in the path of supreme love. Pashu bhava, 
vira bhava, and divya bhava can be compared with a bud, a 
flower, and a fruit evolving through a natural process to reach the 
highest state of realization; wherein there is no longer any regard 
for minor aspects such as pleasure or prosperity. Tantric practice 
leads to the experience and manifestation of divinity already 
present within us. ( See Table 2, page 49.) 



The Five Principles 

Panchatattvas (the five principles) or panchamakara (the five 
words) beginning with the syllable ma represent the most 
misunderstood aspect within Tantra. In this mode of practice, 
the seeker uses five objects that start with the letter m in order to 
perform certain rituals: 









roasted or fried food, 

According to some tantric practices these five elements are 
considered essential components. Unfortunately these words have 
been given a literal translation associating them with pleasure and 
enjoyment, and as such, have done great damage to Tantra as a 
spiritual science. The actual spiritual and metaphorical meaning is 
completely different, and has great relevance for a spiritual seeker. 
(See Table 3, page 49) For this potential misconception, it is insisted 
in tantric literature that the practice should only be performed under 
the strict supervision of a competent guru, or it will lead to extreme 
confusion or misapplication. When the five tattvas are applied 
literally by sadhakas immersed in the pashu bhava stage, the entire 
tantric system is demeaned and debased. 

The panchatattvas or panchamakara are designed to promote 
spiritual evolution from one stage to another, eventually reaching a 
highly focused stage of single-mindedness. ( See Table 4, page 50) 
The five principles are described in the following texts: 

madyam mamsam tatah matsyo mudra maithunam eva ca 
pancatattvamidam devi nirvana muktihetavah 
makara pancakam devi devanam api durlabham 
(Gupta Sadhana Tantra) 



“O Divine Lady! The panchatattvas (five principles) like wine, 
flesh, fish, fried cereals, and coition are required for liberation, 
which is not easily available, even to celestials.” 

narcayet kalikam devim Sambhavi sukha moksadam 
madyam mamsam tatha matsayam mudram ca maithunam vina 
bahmano vlra bhavena kalikayai nivedayet 

“Never worship Kali, the bestower of shambhavi (state of perfect 
meditation), happiness and liberation, without wine, flesh, fish, 
fire, and coition. The Brahmin with a heroic nature should offer 
these to Kalika.” 

madyai mamsaistathd matsyair mudrabhirmaithunairapi 
stribhi sardha mahasahuh arccayed jagadambikam 
anyatha ca mahaninda glyate panditaih suraih 
kdyena manasa vaca tasmat tattva paro bhavet 

“He is a great sage, who worships Jagadambika (Mother of the 
Universe) with wine, flesh, fish, fried food, and coition. 
Otherwise the scholars and priests will blame him. Through such 
worship he goes beyond body, mind, and speech. Therefore go 
beyond the tattvas.” 

A state of confusion and malpractice has arisen due to the 
misinterpretation of this kind of citations. The actual spiritual and 
metaphorical meaning is completely different, and has great 
relevance for a spiritual seeker. Through the direct guidance of a 
highly evolved guru and by the practice of deep meditation, the real 
hidden meaning of these texts can be expounded. To counteract this 
negative influence, other tantric sources have attempted to condemn 
these abuses by trying to restore purity within the system. 



1) Madya (wine/alcohol): 

In Sanskrit, madya has synonyms like madhu, madira, soma, 
and sura , which can mean ‘wine,’ but are also used to represent 
‘milk,’ ‘molasses,’ and ‘honey’ ( madhutraya or three types of 
madhu). The literal translation is, of course, ‘intoxicating drink’ 
or ‘liquor,’ but that is only a symbol for the subtler meaning. It 
is impossible to fully grasp spiritual reality without the guidance 
of a guru and the practice of deep meditation. Without these, 
ego tends to play a pivotal role, leading to scant and false 
interpretations. The following verse is an example: 

pltvd pltva punah pitva yavad patati bhutale 
utthaya ca punah. pltva punarjanma na vidyate 

“Drink and drink (again and again) until you fall down 
(unconscious). Rise up and drink again, only then will you 
get liberation.” 

This kind of citation, if interpreted lightly, can be an 
aberration and taken by libertines to be an encouragement to 
delve in all kinds of vices under the guise of spirituality. Therefore 
the Kularnava Tantra quotes, 

madya panena manujo yadi siddhim labhavte vai 
madya panaratah sarve siddhim gacchantu pamarah 

“If through drinking alcohol a person will attain perfection, 
then all evil-minded alcoholics can attain it.” 

In the Agama Sara, a classical tantric textbook, the practice 
of drinking and intoxication is properly interpreted, 

somadhara ksaret yatu brahmarandhrat varanane 
pitvananda mayastan yeh sa eva madya sadhaka 

“The flow of nectar, which comes from the aperture of the divine 
brahmarandhra, situated in the core of the thousand-petal lotus, 
once swallowed will give the blissful state of divine intoxication.” 



This is the real meaning of the wine that Lord Shiva speaks 
about in Tantra, and it blends well with his teachings and practice 
on the subject of Yoga. In the yogic exercise of khechari mudra, 
the tongue is pointed towards the fontanel, touching the uvula 
and even further, past the back of the palate. This practice results 
in a special secretion of saliva, which gives a soothing effect to 
the body and the mind in a feeling of divine intoxication. This 
type of saliva is known as the ‘wine of the yogis’ and is 
considered the gateway to enter the state of deep meditation. 

In the Bible it is said that Jesus was often falsely accused of 
being a glutton and a drunkard because he seemed to be in a strange 
sort of state that was similar to intoxication. Sometimes, when his 
disciples offered him food he would say, “I have already eaten.” To 
counteract their surprise he would add, “You do not know the nature 
of the food and drink I live on.” Those that did not know Lord Jesus 
well and were given over to doubts, spread rumors that he was 
overpowered by alcohol, but such intoxication was none other than 
the result of deep meditation and an endless communion with God. 

The Kaivalya Tantra, a renowned tantric scripture says, 

yaduktam parama brahma nirvikaram nimjanam 
tasmin pramadana jnanam tanmadyam parikirtitam 

“Being completely absorbed in parambrahman, which is 
described as (a state) free from all modification and description, 
gives a divine intoxication known as wine.” 

Deep contact and communion with God is intoxicating and 
becomes possible through Yoga and meditation. Just like an alcoholic 
cannot survive without alcoholic beverages, a truly spiritual person 
considers meditation to be an essential part of life. In tantric rituals 
a substitute can be used, known as anukalpa. Tender coconut water 
in copper pots is the anukalpa for wine during ritualistic practice. 



2) Mamsa (flesh/meat): 

The second practice is known as mamsa sadhana and it is 
related to the consumption of flesh or meat. As in the previous 
example, if a text is interpreted in accordance to the primary 
meaning, it can be grossly misconstrued. When these steps are 
followed literally, without understanding their true import, it is 
impossible to become released from the clutch of the senses. In 
tantric texts there is the following description, 

mamsa tu trividha proktam jala bhucara khecara 
yasmat kasmat samanitam yena kena vighatitam 
tat sarvam devatapritaih bhavet eva na samsayah 

“There are three types of flesh, know it clearly, from the 
creatures of the land, water, and air. These can be caught by 
any means and killed in any manner, and offered to the gods. 

This will please them without any doubt.” 

Though it is true that in the name of many religions, 
numerous animals have been offered and sacrificed at the altar 
of God, the great prophets and masters have always opposed 
and attempted to reform this cruel ritual. God is manifested and 
present throughout creation. How could God be pleased with 
the destruction and slaying of animals? 

The Yoga Upadesha says, 

jupam krtva paium krtva krtva rudhira kardamam 
yadyeva gamyate svargam narakam kena gamyate 

“If by preparing the altar of sacrifice and butchering animals, 
soaking the soil with blood, if such carnivorous people will 
go to heaven, then who will go to hell?” 

The Kularnava Tantra warns, 

mamsa bhaksana matrena yadi punyagatir bhavet 
loke mamsasinah sarve punya bhajo bhavantunah 



“If by eating flesh, people attain merits and virtues in this 
world, let the entire flesh-eaters get liberation.” 

The real metaphorical meaning of mamsa or flesh is described 
in the same text, 

mangalya jananat devi satcidananda danatah 
sarvadeva priyattvat ca mamsa iti abhidhlyate 

“That which gives rise to auspiciousness and bestows eternal 
consciousness and bliss, that which pleases all the gods, is 
known as flesh.” 

The word mamsa is composed of two parts, mam and sa, 
which represent two divine attainments — mangalya 
(auspiciousness) and sat-cit-ananda (eternity, consciousness, 
and bliss). Mamsa is a state of spiritual enlightenment that brings 
eternal, auspicious bliss. 

Lord Shiva explains the means to attain this blissful state, 

ma sabdat rasana jneya taddam&anat rasana priye 
sada yo bhaksayet devi sa eva mamsa sadhakah 

“Know that ma represents ‘the tongue,’ and whoever 
constantly devours it, O Devi, is truly a mamsa sadhaka 
(practitioner of eating flesh).” 

To eat one’s tongue, or swallow it temporarily, is the yogic 
technique known as khechari mudra. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 
of Svatmarama Yogindra, the practice of khechari mudra is described 
as eating beef and drinking wine, 

gomamsa bhaksayet nityam pibet amara varunim 
tamaham kulina manye itare kulaghatakah 

“Those who eat gomamsa (flesh of a cow) and drink varuni 
(strong liquor), I consider them highly cultivated people, others 
are contemptible.” 



At first glance it would appear that Lord Shiva is urging 
devotees to devour beef and consume alcohol, but the subsequent 
verse offers the hidden meaning, 

go Sabde nodita jihva tat praveia hi talusca 
go mamsa bhaksanam iti maha pataka nasanam 

“The word go connotes the tongue. When one swallows it, 
this signifies the eating of go-mamsa (the flesh of the tongue) 
or beef. Such practice destroys all evil in a person.” 

Devotees immersed in this discipline are truly practicing mamsa 
sadhana. The Kularnava Tantra has an additional interpretation 
related to the slaughter of animals and eating of flesh, 

papa punya pasum hatva jnana khadgena yogavit 
pare layam nayet cittam pala&iti nigadyate 

“A yogi, with the sword of knowledge, can slaughter the two 
beasts of virtues and vices. The mind of such a person rests 
on the Supreme and he is known as a flesh-eater.” 

People are confined in equal measure by their attachment to 
virtue or to vice. While vice breeds disease and suffering, virtue 
offers temporary glory and limited enjoyment. Both are the cause 
of bondage. If vice can be portrayed as a binding with a heavy 
rusty iron chain, virtue binds us equally with an elaborate gold 
ornament. Meditation severs the bonds that keep human beings 
bound to the cycle of birth-death-rebirth; pleasure and pain; good 
and evil. By destroying the attachment to both virtue and vice with 
the sword of Self-knowledge, a yogi becomes a true flesh eater, 
constantly absorbed in God through deep meditation. In this manner, 
the inner animals such as anger, pride, ignorance, attachment, ego, 
and jealousy, which plague the soul, are slain or destroyed. 

Mamsa can also be split into two root words: ma and amsa — ma 
represents ‘the tongue’ and amsa is that which is ‘bom from (the 
tongue),’ i.e., ‘taste’ and ‘speech.’ An additional meaning of mamsa 



sadhana is to control food intake by occasional fasting (taste) 
and to discipline life through the deliberate practice of silence 
(speech). The anukalpa, or symbolic substitute in rituals, for 
flesh is salt, white sesame seeds, or garlic and onion. 

3) Matsya (fish): 

The third principle or tattva is matsya or fish. The less 
developed type of seekers, still imbued in the animalistic pashu 
bhava stage, take this concept to heart and offer three types of 
fish to the Divine Mother, their presiding deity. The fish can be 
raw, deep-fried, or roasted; with or without bones; from the pond, 
the river, or the sea. It is offered in worship and later on eaten as 
prasad or consecrated food. Sweet-water fish is preferred to 
seafood. The anukalpa is white eggplant, red radish, red spinach, 
red lentils, and roasted vegetables. The metaphorical 
interpretation of matsya involves .inner transformation. 

The Kularnava Tantra says, 

maya maladi samanat moksamarga nirttpanat 
astaduhkhadi virahat matsyeti parikirtitah 

“Matsya (fish) is that which removes the impurities of 
delusion from life, shows clearly the path of liberation, and 
makes one free from the eight types of suffering (being in the 
womb, birth, marriage, worldly life, mental anguish, disease, 
old age, and death).” 

The Kailash Tantra instructs, 

ganga yamunayormadhye dvau matsyam caratah sada 

tau matsyau bhaksayet yastu sa bhavet matsya sadhakah 

“In the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, two fish always roam. One 
who devours these two fish becomes a matsya sadhaka (fish 




The rivers Ganga and Yamuna represent the two spinal 
channels in the body called the ida and the pingala, which begin 
in the base of the spine and end in the left and right nostrils 
respectively. The inhalation and exhalation of the breath is 
allegorically described as the coming and going of two fish. The 
seeker who ‘consumes’ these two fish by the practice of breath- 
control, will gain inner tranquility and attain the state of liberation. 

The Kularnava Tantra explains this in the following verse, 

matsamana sarva bhute sukha duhkhamidam priye 
iti yat sattvika jnanam tan matsya parikirtitam 

“To offer fish in worship means to perceive Me (Shiva) 
equally in all, and accept the duality of life like pleasure and 
pain with equanimity, by being established in pure knowledge 
( sattvika-jhana ).” 

The same scripture goes on to elaborate, 

manasadindriya gramam samyamyatmani yojayet 
matsyasi sa bhavet devi itare prani ghatakah 

“One who disciplines the mind and the senses and unites them 

with the Self, is a true eater of fish. O Devi! The others are 
simply killing the living animals (prani , here refers to fish).” 

Matsya teaches the spiritual seeker to eliminate all restlessness 
and achieve inner tranquility, purity, and peace through breath-control 
and by remaining established in a state of pure knowledge, 
experiencing the presence of God everywhere. 

4) Mudra (parched grain): 

The fourth tattva or principle in Tantra is mudra. In Sanskrit, the 
word mudra has multiple meanings; ‘seal,’ ‘stamp,’ ‘coin,’ ‘passport,’ 
‘image,’ ‘parched grain,’ ‘the position of the fingers,’ ‘a yogic 
exercise,’ and ‘the art of making love.’ In tantric practices mudra 
is used in three different ways: 



i) Fried food/parched grain: 

Parched grain is offered in a ritual to the Divine Mother. There are 
three types of grain. A special white rice, barley, or wheat fried in 
ghee, is considered the best kind of offering. A slightly lesser grade 
is puffed rice and other sweetened cereals. Finally, the darker type 
of grain is also acceptable but considered of lower quality. 

ii) Hand gesture or position of the fingers: 

In Hindu rituals (including classical dance), specific hand gestures 
are used symbolically, to invoke, to welcome, to please, to offer, 
and so on. Within the tantric scriptures there is a description of nine 
mudras considered to be pleasing to the Divine Mother, which 
include: pasa or noose, ankuhsa or hook, vara or blessing, abhaya 
or assurance, khadga or sword, charrna or shield, damaru, tabor, or 
small drum, shara or arrow, and musala or mace. 

iii) Mudra is interpreted as the art of making love or as a yogic 

In classical yogic literature there is a detailed description of different 
forms of asanas or postures, which if used effectively and combined 
with a breathing technique bring about exceptional self-control and 
pave the way to enter a deep state of meditation. In the Gheranda 
Samhita, as taught by Sage Gheranda, a description is made of twenty 
mudras. A few examples are: mahamudra, yonimudra, sambhavi 
mudra, shakti chalini mudra, and ashvini mudra. These mudras 
help the seeker to gain mastery over the body, mind, and breath in 
order to progress on the spiritual path. It is important to remember 
that all these mudras must be practiced under the direct guidance 
and supervision of an advanced practitioner. 

The Agama Sara, a well-known tantric text, describes the inner 
meaning of mudra, 

sahasrare mahapadme karnika mudritascaret 
atma tatraiva devesi kevala paradopamah 



siiryokoti pratikasah candra koti suSitalah 
ativa kamaniyasca mahakundalini yutcih 
yasya jiianodaydstatra mudra sadhaka ucyate 

“O Divine! In the crown of the head, in the center of the 
thousand-petal lotus, there is the presence of the soul, as clear 
as mercury. Although, it is brilliant like millions of suns, it is 
still cool and soothing like millions of moons. It is also 
equally beautiful. One, who realizes this by being united with 
kundalini, is truly a practitioner of mudra. Such a seeker has 
gained the state of wisdom and is known as mudra sadhaka 
(seeker achieving perfection in mudra ).” 

Mudra has also been interpreted as a kind of renunciation, 

satsangcna hhavet muktih asatsangena bandhanam 
asatsanga mudranam yat tanmudrd parikirtitam 

“Good company is the cause of liberation whereas bad 
company brings bondage. The art of renouncing bad 
company is known as mudra." 

During the practice of meditation, various coin-shaped 
colours can be experienced. This is described as mudra or ‘coin- 
in-meditation.’ Etymologically, mudra is divided into three parts: 
mud means ‘pleasure,’ drav is ‘to melt,’ ra is ‘to give.’ Mudra 
can be interpreted as that which pleases God, makes the heart 
melt, and frees us from all vices by giving the joy of fulfillment. 
In both meditation and ritualistic worship, many types of mudras 
can be used. Only through spiritual discipline can a sincere 
seeker evolve on the path of enlightenment. 

5) Mailhuna (coition): 

The incorporation of sexuality in worship and spiritual practice 
has brought about a great deal of misunderstanding. The depiction 
of Shiva and Parvati as a symbol of cosmic union has led many so- 



called practitioners of Tantra to live with partners, experimenting 
in sexual techniques under the guise of spirituality. This sexual 
approach has debased Tantra from a pure, spiritual science to 
an amalgamation of contradictory principles, adulterated 
between the search for God and the search for pleasure. 

In the tantric scriptures it is described, 

maithunam parama tattvam srstisthityanta karanam 
maithundt jayate siddhi brahmajhanam sudurlabham 

“Maithunam (conjugation) is the supreme principle, the cause 
of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. Through maithuna, 
one achieves perfection and gains the extremely rare . 
knowledge of the Absolute.” 

Another tantric text claims, 

kulakundalinl Sakti dehinam dehadharini 
taya Sivasya samyogah maithunam pariktrtitam 

“The power of kundalini remains in the body. When it is 
united with Shiva it is known as maithuna or coition.” 

The Kulamava Tantra, however, denounces the literal approach 
to maithuna (sexual intercourse) in spiritual practice stating, 

strl sambhogena devesi yadi moksam labhate vai 
sarvepi jantavo loke muktah syu strl nisevanat 

“If by enjoyment of women, O Divine, people would attain 
liberation, then all the animals would be liberated as they live 
the life of copulation.” 

The same source asserts, 

para shaktyatma mithuna samyogananda tfvarah 
muktaste maithunam tat sydt itare strlnisevakah 

“The ones who through self-discipline and meditation can unite 
parashakti (the cosmic energy hidden in the body) with the inner 



Self, experience the perennial source of bliss and realize God. 

They are truly free and liberated through such conjugation, 
and the others are only slaves of women.” 

The real sexual intercourse is between the female body-nature 
and male soul or God-nature, through ever}' breath. The yogic state 
presupposes the realization of this ceaseless union of body and soul. 
This realization can only be attained through sadhana involving 
breath regulation and self-control. In ritualistic worship, offering 
some flowers like aparajita or agasti (special flowers used in 
worship) through yonimudra and kurmamudra (special hand gestures) 
is the anukalpa for maithuna. In yogic practice Shiva or the invisible 
soul is always in coition with the body and maintaining its life 
through inhalation; union with God in every breath is the real act of 
perennial love. 

Table One Classification of Chakras 








va, sha, 









ba, bha, 










da, dha, 
na, ta, 
tha, da, 
dha, pa, 








ka, kha, 
ga, gha, 
na, ca, 
cha, ja. 


jha, na, 
pa, pha 
































Table Two Classification of Acharas (modes of conduct) 
Ashramas (stages of life), and Gunas (the predominant qualities) 



tamasic pashu vedacara brahmacarya beginners adhibhautika 

_ celibacy _ (physical) 

tamasic and vira siddhantacara grihastha intermediate adhidaivika 

rajasic dakshinacara (family) state (mental) 

_ vamacara _ 

rajasic and vira and kulacara vanaprastha state of adhyatmika 

sattvic _ divya _ (retirement) maturity (unforeseen) 

pure sattvic divya yogacara sannyasa realization tapatrayatita 

(complete (free from 


Table Three Panchamakara (panchatattvas), the Five Principles 
Beginning with Ma 


physical/gross) (anukalpa/substitute) (metaphorical/symbolic) 

madya- made of milk in a brass pot; saliva through khechari 

wine/ molasses/fruit coconut water in a mudra, attainment of 

alcohol juice or brass pot; honey in extreme love for God 

fermented cereals a brass pot 

mamsa- animals of the salt, garlic, onion, keep tongue rolled up; 

flesh sea, land, air white sesame acceptance of God as 

source of all 

matsya- large but few white coloured inner purity ;freedom fish 

bones; no bones; eggplant, red from maya; breath 

small but many coloured radish, control; to see God in 

bones red leaf vegetables all 

mudra- fried food with position of the practice of different 

physical ghee; white colour; fingers during mudras during 

posture for puffed rice or ritualistic practices meditation; to eliminate 

enjoyment fried cereals all evils; to experience 

inner peace 

maithuna- physical union to offer special to experience union of 

coition with partner flowers like parashakti with the 

aparajita or agasti; soul, kundalini with 

with red sandal Shiva, to experience 

wood samadhi 



Table Four The Five Principles Integrated 

madya Prana (exhalation) Vishnu 

mamsa apana (inhalation) Brahma 

matsya samana (harmonization) Rudra 

mudra udana (evolution) Ishvara 

maithuna vyana (perception of pervasion) Sadasiva 

Spiritual Significance of the Cremation Ground 

The cremation ground plays an important role within the Hindu 
system. When a person dies, the body is burnt to ashes in a funeral 
pyre, and the five constituent elements — the earth, water, fire, air, 
and space — in the body return to their original source. Ordinary 
people consider the cremation ground as a place of sadness and 
desolation, but a sadhu regards it as sacred ground, the abode of 
Shiva and Kali, the symbols of changelessness. Metaphorically, Lord 
Shiva is the personification of knowledge, non-attachment, and 
liberation. In each human body. Lord Shiva is seated in the sahasrara 
or the crown of the head. A seeker becomes united with Shiva when 
— through the power of concentration — one retracts the outgoing 
energy or shakti from the lower chakras and concentrates explicitly 
on the sahasrara. This state is known as jiva-shiva-milana or the 
union between the kundalini shakti with parama shiva. 

A strong presence of death pervades the cremation ground 
generating detachment and dispassion in a devotee who realizes the 
futility and transitoriness of life. Recognizing the enduring 
permanence of Shiva and Shakti, the practitioner experiences the 
inner meaning of life in the proximity of death. Such recognition of 
opposites on the cremation ground deepens one’s meditation. 

The most auspicious time for effective tantric rituals is the new 
moon at midnight. Lord Shiva and Mother Kali are worshipped on 
such special occasions with elaborate panchamakara sadhana or 



five m principles discussed above. Depending on the practitioner’s 
tantric tradition and the level of understanding, various stipulated 
objects are offered. Extremist groups do not shy away from offering 
their own blood during rituals. Tantrics often practice their rituals 
in a group but at other times they sit in a circle (forming a chakra) 
and follow their own independent methodology. 

In the dance of cosmic energy everything undergoes constant 
change except Shiva, or the Supreme Soul. He is by nature 
changeless. The world is nothing but a cremation place of the old 
and a cradle-place for the new, since that which undergoes change 
is bound to perish but will eventually be reborn in a new form. This 
change of outlook brings more detachment for the outer world and 
a deeper more enduring love within for the absolute and eternal. 

Shava Sadhana 

Shava Sadhana means ‘corpse meditation,’ and some tantrics 
take this practice literally. Living in the cremation ground, they use 
dead bodies for specific rituals. Such extreme practice is rejected in 
other traditions. A physical posture in Hatha Yoga known as shava 
asana or the inert posture constitutes a complete relaxation technique 
that brings about rejuvenation and freedom from stress and strain. 

In the Isha Upanishad, this process is taken a step further in a 
mantra, bhashmantam shariram or ‘consider your body as having 
been burnt into ashes.’ During deep meditation, a spiritual seeker 
goes beyond body consciousness to experience a state of inner 
awakening known as so’ham, ‘I am That’ (the Absolute), and 
dissolves into oneness with the whole of creation. A true practitioner 
is one who experiences the transitory nature of the body in its ultimate 
stage through meditation. The devotee ascends to the sahasrara (to 
the crown of the head) by withdrawing the prana or the energy 
principle from the base of the spine. Body consciousness is 
transformed into cosmic consciousness. When the gross body appears 



to be dead (breathless stage), it has reached the samadhi state. 
For both tantrics and yogis the practice is known as shava sadhana 
or corpse meditation, and it is performed with the deep awareness 
that the body is lifeless, inert, without the presence of the soul. 

Munda Sadhana 

Munda Sadhana can be interpreted as finding an appropriate 
place for meditation. The scriptures abound with elaborate 
descriptions of suitable places for spiritual exercises. Suggestions 
include isolated and beautiful spots such as a temple, a riverbank, a 
mountain valley, a place close to a pond or lake, a well-ventilated 
cave, or a room that is quiet and clean. 

In tantric texts there are two additional requirements. The first 
comes under the heading of panchavati or an assemblage of five 
special trees planted together, but opinions vary regarding the nature 
of the five holy trees. Traditional texts mention the following trees: 

Ashoka Jonisia Ashoka (a tree with red flowers), 

Villva Wood apple, 

Bata Banyan tree, 

Dhatri (amalaka ) Emblic Myrrbalan, 

Ashvattha Peepal or the holy fig tree. 

According to the Gospel of Ramakrishna the neem tree 
(margosa) is included instead of the ashoka. 

More significant for the tantrics is the practice of panchamundi 
asana. The ideal place for meditation in this practice is to stand on 
the burial ground of the heads of five beings: a human, a snake, a 
monkey, a jackal, and a dog. The symbolic meaning of this ritual is 
to sit above the five lower centers, burying their restless qualities by 
remaining in the sixth center ( ajna chakra) or the seventh center 
(sahasrara chakra). In this way, the sincere seeker is freed from 
dubious propensities since each animal skull corresponds to one of 



the five tendencies of the lower chakras. The dog, in the role of 
guardian to material prosperity, represents the muladhara or 
money center; the snake, embodiment of the need to copulate, 
coils up in the svadhisthana or sexual center; the jackal, always 
searching for food and prey is at the manipura or navel center; 
the restless monkey, filled with variable emotions, sits at the 
anahata or heart center; the human skull, expressing the constant 
search for intellectual, religious, and philosophical knowledge, 
finds its place in the vishuddha chakra. 

The inner meaning of burying the five animal heads is to ascend 
progressively from the lower chakras until unity is reached with the 
Supreme Self, or paramashiva, in the sahasrara at the crown of the 
head. The only way to resist the delusive attraction of the lower chakras 
and find eternal bliss is by raising consciousness in this way. 


It is a very common sight to find a tantric who keeps a human 
skull in his possession, especially the skull of a virgin, coloured 
with vermilion, and worshipped to invoke magical and supernatural 
powers. A human skull is also used as a food bowl for eating and 
drinking. But a truly spiritual life is never an external show; the 
dress, the rosary, the red-mark on the forehead are all meaningless 
unless the change in attitude is internalized and completely sincere, 
and one is always focused on inner transformation. 

The word Kapalika comes from kapala, which means ‘the head’ 
or ‘the crown of the head.’ Kapalika metaphorically means to be 
established in the cranium with full concentration fixed in the ajna 
and sahasrara chakras. The place for spiritual evolution is the source 
of every thought and activity in the brain. 



Aghora Sadhana 

The word aghora is derived from the root word ghora, which 
means ‘darkness’ and ‘fear.’ A-ghora, therefore, stands for the 
contrary, ‘illumination,’ ‘calmness,’ and ‘peace.’ Aghora sadhana is 
a conscious effort to maintain mental equanimity. This is a state 
sought after by every sincere seeker. 

There is a special group of tantrics that live in the cremation 
ground, following their own rituals without any visible 
discipline. They remain completely naked and smear their 
body with ashes collected from the funeral pyres. Since they 
live in the cremation ground, cut off from the world, it is 
believed that they consume human flesh. Their peculiar 
behaviour has fostered a profound dread about Tantra. 

In a symbolic way, an aghora sadhalca, in his very nakedness, 
represents detachment from body consciousness. The consumption 
of human flesh can also be interpreted metaphorically, as a form of 
self-contentment. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “If you eat my 
flesh and drink my blood, then you will have your place in Heaven.” 

Darkness represents ignorance, whereas knowledge brings forth 
light. Aghora means to eliminate ignorance completely, without 
leaving any trace. As a devotee enters the state of deep meditation, 
one will gradually penetrate the veil of darkness (ghora) and 
experience Inner Light. 

Guru and Disciple 

Lord Shiva is the eternal guru and Parvati, his divine consort, is 
his faithful disciple ( sishya ). The dialogue between Shiva and Parvati 
teaches us an intricate spiritual truth. A worthy guru will impart 
sacred knowledge to a qualified student with the utmost love and 
care. A deserving disciple becomes the instrument to carry on the 
weight of such divine heritage, not only for the purpose of self¬ 
transformation but also for the more delicate role of future 



transmission. Since Tantra teaches a practical form of spirituality, 
it categorically underlines the need of a guru as a guide on the 
spiritual journey. 

The Mahanirvana'Tantra says, 

bahu janmarijitaih punyaih sadguru yadi labhyate 
tada tat vaktrato labdhva janma saphalyam apnuyat 

“Due to the profound merits of a previous life, when one is 
fortunate to get a qualified guru, one is able to transform life 
and achieve success through his instruction.” 

The guru, through the example of self-discipline and spiritual 
attainment, can dispel the darkness of ignorance from the heart and 
the mind of a disciple. 

In the Mahanirvana Tantra the following explanation is found, 

mantradata guruhproktah mantranam parama guruh 
parapara gurutvam hi paramesthi gurustvaham 

“One who initiates a disciple by giving a mantra is the guru. The 
mantra itself is the parama guru (superior guru), you (O Parvati) 
are parapara guru (supreme guru), and I (Shiva) am paramesthi 
guru (eternal guru).” 

In the scriptures it is stated that a competent guru must be a 
person of pure parentage, descending from a Brahmin family and 
possessing great self-control. He should be familiar with the true 
meaning and real essence of the scriptures. He must be well 
acquainted with puja (worship), homa (the offering of oblations 
into the holy fire), dhyana (meditation), japa (the repetition of the 
divine name), and he should have thorough knowledge of Yoga. In 
addition, he must be full of love and have a peaceful disposition. 

Tantra warns seekers of accepting false gurus, who exhibit 
outward erudition and holiness but are inwardly motivated by greed, 
hidden desires, and base instincts. 



The sishya or disciple must also possess characteristics 
suitable to progress in spiritual life. The Vedantic texts prescribe 
that a worthy disciple must have the following attributes: 

i) Discrimination, 

ii) Freedom from desire for sense-enjoyment and accumulation 
of fame and fortune, 

iii) The six-fold qualities such as control of the mind; control 
of the senses; fortitude; ability to withdraw the mind from 
external objects; faith; the power of concentration and 
awareness of the inner Self, 

iv) A distinct longing for liberation. 

A sincere seeker will progress in the spiritual path through 
love, devotion, truth, inner strength, and vigor. But a person who 
is habitually deceitful, earns money dishonestly, injures others, 
or cannot find a qualified guru, will not reach the highest goal. 

The Guru’s Role 

bhuya eva mahabaho 6rnu me paramam vacah 
yat te ham priyamanaya vaksyami hitakamyaya 
(Bhagavad Gita 10:1) 

“O Mighty-armed Arjuna! Hear my words, which I impart to you 
who are dear to me, with a desire for your welfare.” 

The need for a guru is stressed in nearly all spiritual practices. 
Tantra emphasizes even more the need for a spiritual guide who 
can actively help the seeker to overcome the obstacles in life to 
achieve liberation. 

It is extremely rare to find a guru who removes the suffering of 
disciples, helping them to evolve and to achieve supreme bliss. In 
the above verse, Lord Krishna is telling Atjuna, you are very dear to 



me because you are sincere and I am only concerned with your 
highest welfare, so please listen to me. The master wants the 
welfare and complete development of disciples. He wants them 
to excel in such a way that they may become greater than the 
master himself. Such is the unconditional love of the master for 
his students. 

As described in tantric texts, a qualified guru should have 
the following qualities: 

i) Tranquility and a peaceful countenance, 

ii) Self-control over the mind and sense ;, 

iii) Belonging to a pious family (in the scriptures specific 
allusion is made to the Brahmins), 

iv) Humility devoid of all traces of ego and arrogance, 

v) Dressed in sacred robes (ochre-coloured), 

vi) Ingrained good habits; free from anger, vanity, and 

vii) Enjoying a good reputation; firmly established in 

viii) Transparent mind and activities, 

ix) Diligent and efficient in spiritual practice, 

x) Possessing wisdom; thorough knowledge of the essence 
of the Vedas, Agamas, and other related scriptures, 

xi) Belonging to an ashramcr, following the practical 
instructions of his own guru or lineage of masters, 

xii) Having a meditative outlook, with thorough knowledge of 

xiii) Well-versed in Tantra and mantras, 

xiv) A compassionate disciplinarian, 

xv) Immersed in a permanent state of bliss. 



The Disciple’s Role 

tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya 
upadeksanti te jnanam jnaninastaitvadarsinah 
(Bhagavad Gita 4:34) 

“In the search for knowledge and wisdom, a seeker should 
approach the qualified guru with reverence, humble enquiries, 
and devoted service. Once the guru has tested and accepted 
the disciple, he will proceed to expound the highest Truth.” 

The Kularnava Tantra urges the following advice: 

A disciple is also responsible for testing the credibility of the 
guru. There are many self-designated gurus of dubious heritage 
with minimal familiarity with Tantra, mantras, and the medicinal 
effects of plants and herbs. Their minds, full of greed and 
temptation, focus on exploiting the material wealth of their 
students. In this regard, Tantra instructs a student to quietly leave 
an incompetent or unworthy teacher as a bee leaves a flower 
devoid of honey and moves on to a new, more suitable one. 

According to the Goutamiya Tantra, a worthy disciple should 
cultivate the following qualities: 

i) A good character, free from blemish as well 
as a guiltless nature, 

ii) Inner purity in thoughts, words, and mind, 

iii) A constant drive to reach the supreme goal of life - 
moksha or liberation, 

iv) Well-versed in the scriptures, 

v) An intelligent attitude in order to understand the teachings 
of the guru, and the hidden meaning of the scriptures, 

vi) A serviceful attitude towards one’s parents, 

vii) An inner drive to remain righteous, obedient to moral 
and ethical principles, 



viii) Devotion and a serviceful attitude towards the guru, 

ix) Good health, 

x) A balanced mind, 

xi) Compassion for others, 

xii) A strong ability to sacrifice temporary pleasure, 

xiii) An ardent and sincere desire for the spiritual path, 

xiv) An attitude of constant alertness in activity, 

xv) Remaining free from delusion, attachment, and envy. 

The Rudra Yamala warns the guru to avoid a student who 
happens to be passionate, crooked, of blemished character, full 
of falsehood, disobedient, incompetent, extremely inadvertent, 
quarrelsome, attracted to sinful activities, devoid of faith, 
impatient, easily overpowered by anger, of debatable moral 
values, and other such qualities. 

In ancient times, during the period of apprenticeship the 
student lived in an ashram with the teacher, often in a secluded 
forest. The constant proximity and exclusive contact with the 
teacher, the source of infinite knowledge, compassion, and love, 
enabled the student to be immersed in an attitude of obedience 
and service. Following the role model of discipline and self- 
control, the disciple became a reflection of the master’s teaching. 

Within the tantric scriptures there is a list of rules, which the 
student should follow during daily life. The following are but a few 

i) In the guru’s presence keep the senses and mind under 

ii) Do not sit on the guru’s bed or cushion; 

iii) Whenever the guru comes into sight, go forward a few 
steps to receive him with reverence; 

iv) Serve the guru with body and mind (with physical 
effort and mental dedication); 



v) Never visit the guru with empty hands, take at least a 
flower or a piece of firewood; 

vi) Bow down to the guru with love and reverence, with 
out ego or shyness; 

vii) Try to fulfill the instructions of the guru; 

viii) Show reverence to all the guru’s belongings; 

ix) Never walk ahead of the guru; follow him with love; 

x) Never sit insolently before the guru, but with a 
respectful attitude; 

xi) When close to the guru give up falsehood, fear, idleness, 

useless chatter, and betrayal; 

xii) Sleep after the guru has gone to bed and get up before 
the guru awakes. 

When a disciple is ready and feels a strong desire for Self- 
unfoldment, God sends a guru to show the way and the student 
learns from the dynamic living example of the designated master. A 
guru becomes like a mother who provides the source of spiritual 
life, nourishment, and guidance through unconditional love without 


The Yogini Tantra defines initiation, diksha, as derived from two 
syllables: di — diyate jhanam atyantam ‘imparting supreme 
knowledge,’ and ksha — kshiyate sarva samsayam, ‘destroying all 
ignorance and doubt.’ 

Initiation is a sacred ceremony, performed by a qualified teacher, 
which introduces a sincere seeker to spiritual life. The day of the 
diksha marks a spiritual transformation in a student’s life, and hence 
has to be astrologically an auspicious day. Among all possible days 
for initiation, the day of a lunar eclipse has a special significance. 
The process of initiation into Tantra involves a rather complex 
procedure for both the disciple and the guru, ranging from collecting 



various articles to rigorous fasting for inner purification. Various 
tantric works enumerate different types of diksha rituals: 

1) Kriyavati 

2) Kalavati 

3) Varnamayi 

4) Vedamayi 

the guru performs certain rituals in order 
to purify the body and mind of the 
student during initiation, 
the guru perceives the existence of kala, 
or the power of panchabhuta (gross 
elements), such' as nivritti kala (the power 
of detachment) or vidyakala (the power 
of knowledge), in the body of the disciple. 
He meditates on kala and proceeds to 
anoint the student. 

the guru infuses the spirit of varna (letters 
of the alphabet), which are associated 
with energy ( shakti ), in different parts 
of the disciple’s body, 
the guru initiates the disciple through the 
power of thought. 

Initiation can be performed in different ways: 

i) Sparsha diksha during initiation the gum touches a special 

part of the body like the' ‘third eye,’ or the 
spine, rousing spiritual consciousness. 

ii) Vag diksha the gum awakens spiritual consciousness 

in the life of the disciple by uttering a 
mantra into the ear. 

iii) Drig/chakshushi diksha the gum infuses spiritual energy by 

looking intently at the disciple. This is also 
otherwise known as shambhavi diksha. 

Diksha is a technical procedure that varies according to the 
tradition of a particular lineage. It usually encompasses many rituals 
such as abhisheka or the sprinkling of holy water on the disciple, 
and concludes with a Vedic or tantric fire ceremony. The simplest 
form of initiation is mantra upadesha or uttering a mantra of ishta 
devata (the chosen presiding deity) into the disciple’s ear. 



Ishta Devata 

God is one, and has no equal. God is Absolute and manifests 
in varied names and forms. To worship God in symbols such as 
shivalinga or saligrama, or Kali, Durga, or Ganesha, is essentially 
worshipping the Supreme, the One. Sadhakas involved in tantric 
rituals, and meditation choose the deity (ishta devata ), most dear to 
them. Besides personal affinity with the deity, the choice also depends 
on the purpose of meditation and worship. The guru-preceptor can 
also choose the ishta devata if a seeker cannot decide on one. The 
ishta devata can be either male or female. 

At first, Tantra advocates worship and meditation with a form, but 
eventually a devotee is encouraged to go beyond form into a more 
abstract phase. In tantric texts, this is described in the following way, 

uttama brahma sadbhava dhyana bhavastu madhyama 
stuti japo adhamo bhavo bahih pujadhamadhama 
(Mahanirvana Tantra) 

“It is the supreme state to be in constant communion with the 

Absolute; a meditative outlook is in the middle; and chanting 

hymns and repeating mantras is considered primary external 
worship or the ground work.” 

For the average devotee identifying with a form in worship is 
much easier in the beginning stages. As progress is made on the 
spiritual path, meditation on the formless is encouraged and becomes 
a natural step forward. Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa started his 
spiritual journey by worshipping the Divine Mother. But later he 
learned meditation on the formless from Totapuri, the naked monk. 

Each deity has one or more mantras. Some are in word-symbols 
called bijakshari mantra, the ‘seed’ mantra. Besides the mantra, every 
ishta devata has a list of a thousand holy names, sahasranama, and 
a kavacha, protective recitation that acts like a shield. All these are 
received ceremonially from the guru, during diksha or initiation. 



Ishta Mantra 

Etymologically, mantra means mana or ‘mind’ and trana or 
‘liberation.’ Metaphorically this is interpreted as that which makes 
the mind free. The essence of initiation is the transmission of a 
mantra from the guru to the disciple. Another interpretation is man 
‘to reflect’ and tra ‘to protect,’ that which offers protection to the 
one who reflects upon it. In this context, protection implies to be 
safe from harm while pursuing the path of liberation. Mantra vidya 
or mantra shastra, the science of mantras, offers a detailed and 
elaborate analysis classifying them into four categories: 

1) Vaidiki 

2) Pauraniki 

3) Tantriki 

4) Laukiki 

if the source of the mantra is the Vedas, 
mantras that originate from the Puranas, 
includes mantras derived from ijakshara 
or seed-syllables, 
all traditional mantras. 

Vedic mantras are restrictive. They can be chanted by trained, 
qualified individuals in a proper environment and recited in a specific 
meter. Tantric mantras are free from such limitations. In the tradition 
of Tantra, a mantra is not just a letter or a combination of letters of 
the alphabet; it has a much deeper significance. Within the sound 
symbol rests the power and consciousness of the Supreme Creator, 
Brahman, or Its manifestation. 

In classical tantric texts. Brahman is known as svayam prakasha 
or Self-effulgent. Before creation there was a state of inactivity, 
then there was vimarsha or deliberation in Brahman. From this 
emanated the throb or spanda and this in turn gave way to the first 
primordial sound or nada. Nada through spanda became dynamic 
and focused on a bindu or point. When bindu split in two, which is 
the state of shiva-shakti — the male and female, it was the beginning 
of creation, known as sarga. 

Nada or shabda brahman is the spirit of the mantra. In Tantra, 
devotees should not only know the mantra, but also be familiar with 



its connotation or mantrartha. They should also prove able to 
master the art of awakening consciousness through the mantra, 
which is known as mantra chaitanya. 

Tantric mantras can be classified into either saura (solar) or 
saumya (lunar). A mantra that enthralls energy is solar, whereas the 
one that brings peace is lunar. Mantras can also be divided into 
three categories: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Masculine and 
neuter mantras are referred to as mantras, but feminine mantras are 
called vidyas such as shri vidya, dasha maha vidya, and such. Another 
way of identifying them is by their ending. Those ending with hum, 
vasat, or phat are masculine mantras; those ending in svaha and 
vaushat are feminine; ones ending in namah are neuter. 

Mantras can be monosyllabic or multi-syllabic. Monosyllabic 
mantras like klim, or hrim are also known as bija (seed) mantras or 
bijakshara. Just as a seed has a tremendous hidden potential to 
manifest and grow into a mighty tree under the right conditions, so 
has the bija mantra. It produces siddhi, perfection and revelation, if 
used under the instructions of a qualified teacher. Although many 
mantras can be found in books, they should not be used unless 
transmitted by the guru. Tantra prescribes many ways to invoke and 
arouse the power of a mantra to increase its effectiveness: 

1) Upavasa sharira shodhana 

2) Chakra shodhana 

3) Nadi shodhana 

4) Mukha shodhana 

5) Jihva shodhana 

6) Ashauca bhanga 

7) Nidra bhanga 

fasting and purification of the 

purification of the chakras, 
purification of the pranic 

purification of the mouth, 
purification of the tongue, 
elimination of impurity, 
arousal from slumber. 




A guru should instruct his disciples on how to chant and 
concentrate in order to get the maximum benefit from the use of a 
mantra. Japa (repetition of a mantra) can also be defined as the 
process to become free from rebirth; ja is derived from janma and 
pa from papa , which means to attain liberation through the 
elimination of impurities. 

The repetition of a mantra in a prescribed manner can be of three 

i) Vachika uccha audible with rhythm, 

ii) Upamsu madhya a whisper, or by silent movement 

of the lips, 

iii) , Manasa manda mental repetition of the words. 

While performingjf'apa, a devotee follows the consecutive number 
of invocations using the fingers (kara mala ) or with a rosary (japa 
mala). These practices vary depending on the occasion and the 
selected deity. There is a subtle way of chanting known as ajapa 
japa, which literally means ‘non-chanting chants,’ when japa occurs 
automatically with no effort from the devotee. The average human 
being, following a moderate routine, breaths approximately 21,600 
times in 24 hours, some extraordinary yogis and tantrics have been 
known to use a mantra with every breath. 

Tantra describes purascarana as an important system of japa, 
associated with ritualistic practices. Purascarana means puras 
‘before’ and caran, ‘performing’ or ‘carrying’ or ‘progressing’. 

There are several meanings involved: 

1) Perfection of a procedure before taking action, 

2) Through devotion, the chosen deity is a source of inspiration 
and blessings, 

3) The spiritual aspirant advances to the state before Creation. 



Purascarana has several constituents: 

i) Japa repetition of a mantra in a prescribed manner, 

ii) Dhyana meditation, 

iii) Puja ritualistic worship, 

iv) Homa oblations into a duly consecrated fire, 

v) Tarpana ceremonial offering of water satiating the chosen 


vi) Brahmana bhojana ‘Feeding the Brahmana,’ thus joining 
good conduct with due procedure. 

Some tantric works recommend the repetition of a mantra 
240 million times. One tenth (24 million) should be offered as 
oblations, one tenth of oblations should be in the form of tarpana, 
one tenth of tarpana should be done as abhisheka, and one 
tenth of this, is the number of Brahmins that should be fed. If a 
devotee cannot accomplish all of these steps, then the number 
of chantings should be doubled. 

When purascarana is performed in a holy place or during 
an auspicious time, like the navaratras (nine days in March- 
April or September-October) or during a solar or a lunar eclipse, 
it is believed to be extremely effective. 

Kundalini and the Chakras 

As mentioned previously, Brahman and Shakti, purusha and 
prakriti, Shiva and Parvati are two aspects of One Truth. The 
external world manifests through Shakti (Prakriti) associated with 

The Bhagavad Gita (9:10) describes it in the following way, 

mayadhyaksena prakrtih suyate sacaracaram 
hetunanena kaunteya jagad viparcivartate 



“O son of Kunti! With me as the supervisor, divine nature 
produces all things animate and inanimate. This is the cause 
of the universe.” 

The manifestation of the external world is the play of shakti 
or prakriti. Similarly, kundalini is the source of untapped energy 
stored in the body of each human being and constitutes the source 
of basic energy. It is generally portrayed as a coiled serpent or 
serpent-power remaining hidden in the mula padma or muladhara 
chakra at the base of the spine. There are however, many divergent 
experiences about the exact location of the kundalini. According 
to the interpretation of certain realized masters, including my 
own Gurudev, kundalini is not located at the base of the spine, 
but in the brain, which is the store-house of energy and the 
source of all play in the physical, mental, and spiritual realms. 
Through the guidance of a realized master, a seeker should tap 
the unexplored energy in the brain. 

According to tantric texts there are three nadis or pranic 
canals in the spine, that allow life’s energy to flow from the 
brain down to the bottom of the spine. The central canal is called 
the sushumna, to the left lies the ida and to the right the pingala. 
Both the ida and pingala canals are inter-twined inside the spinal 
column. Each chakra, or nerve plexus, becomes a place of 
mutual conjunction. 

Chakra literally means disc or wheel. It is also known as lotus or 
padma (lotus pose). There are many chakras, but seven are 
paramount in spiritual practice. The seven major chakras are the 
centers for the play of consciousness. Their location is more 
psychological than physical. The muladhara chakra is at the 
base of the spine, the svadhisthana chakra is behind the genitals, 
the manipura chakra is at the back of the navel, the anahata 
chakra corresponds to the middle of the chest, the vishuddha 
chakra is in the throat, the ajna chakra is located mid-point 



between the eyebrows, and the sahasrara chakra is at the top 
of the head. 

The chakras are portrayed as lotuses with varying numbers 
of petals, colours and letters corresponding to specific mantras. 
(See Table 1, page 48.) Kundalini and the chakras bridge the 
two paths of Tantra and Yoga, since both schools elaborately 
utilize these two fundamental and mystical concepts. 


Tantra finds its roots in the Vedas and is not at odds with Vedic 
principles and morality. It has evolved as a simplified form of Vedic 
philosophy that is accessible to everyone regardless of race, caste, 
or creed. Tantra is a beautiful combination of Vedantic truth and 
Samkhya principles, the latter being the philosophy that deals with 
cosmic evolution and the principle of cause and effect. Tantrics 
drew from several disciplines to develop practical and verifiable 
methods to accelerate spiritual evolution. 

The most important concept in Tantra is the necessity of unifying 
opposites in order to attain enlightenment. These opposites are 
usually represented as Shiva (consciousness) and shakti (energy); 
purusha (the soul) and prakriti (nature); male and female. The 
union of both is required for the highest level of understanding. 
These polar opposites are in reality one, this is the ultimate truth of 

An important tantric concept, which will be discussed more 
in Part II, is that of the equality of macrocosm and microcosm. 
According to this principle everything in the external universe 
is also represented internally, in the body of every individual; 
the same forces ( gunas ) govern both. 

An essential prerequisite to the practice of Tantra is the 
guidance of a competent guru who can initiate the aspirant into 



the correct methods of its application. A qualified guru is one 
who has experienced the discipline directly and has achieved 
various stages of spiritual development. Qualities essential for 
both teachers and students are carefully described in the 

The Vedas, created in Sanskrit, are the sound-manifestation 
of the Absolute or the Supreme. Through the use of mantra, 
meditation, and concentration, the kundalini shakti can be 
aroused from the base of the spine and gradually brought up 
through the sushumna channel to the sahasrara or thousand- 
petal lotus at the crown of the head. When the mind becomes 
highly purified, through profound meditation and intense 
devotion, the spiritual aspirant experiences the ultimate bliss, 
the union of Shiva and Shakti, attaining permanent liberation. 

The following metaphorical explanation of a rare Sanskrit 
text, Jnana Sankalini Tantra, is aimed at accelerating the spiritual 
progress of sincere seekers who wish to follow the inward 
journey for spiritual evolution through contemplation and 



Jnana Sankalini Tantra: 

A Dialogue Between Shiva & Parvathi 



Tantric texts can be classified into two categories, some 
include ritualistic practices and others concentrate on esoteric 
and metaphysical wisdom. Jnana Sankalini Tantra clearly 
belongs to the second category. Most tantric texts are basically 
records of the timeless dialogue between Shiva and Parvati. This 
book is centered on a conversation between Lord Shiva and his 
divine consort, Parvati, and it extends to 110 verses. 

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is the Supreme 
Yogi, a highly accomplished ascetic who dwells atop the icy 
peaks of the Himalayas, with his divine consort, Parvati, his 
chief disciple. Lord Shiva is considered to be the master of Tantra, 
Yoga, Music, Dance, and Phonetics. He shares his vast 
knowledge with Parvati in response to her earnest enquiries. 

Jnana Sankalini Tantra is considered the Path of Knowledge. 
The word jnana represents ‘knowledge,’ but true knowledge is not 
easy to acquire because it demands discipline and sincere effort. 
Knowledge, once attained, needs to be maintained. 

In Sanskrit it is said, anabhyase visam vidyam : 

“Knowledge without practice is useless.” 

The word sankalini is derived from the root word kalana or 
‘enumeration,’ ‘comprehension,’ or ‘assessment,’ and samkalana, 
which means ‘complete’ or ‘concise.’ Thus, Jnana Sankalini is a 
complete or concise treaty on Tantra. The text itself is unique in its 
approach and explanation as it is based on internal worship and 
meditation rather than external ritualistic practice. Like many tantric 
scriptures it is extremely subtle in nature, so it requires a sharp 
mind and intellect to comprehend the hidden depth of its message. 

This metaphorical explanation of such a rare Sanskrit text is 
aimed at accelerating the spiritual progress of sincere seekers, 
who wish to follow the inward journey for spiritual evolution 
through contemplation and meditation. 





Verse 1 

kailasa Sikharasinam 
devadeva jagadgurum 
prcchati sma mahadevi 
bruhi jhanam maheSvara 


On the top of Mount Kailasha, Mahadevi (Parvati) asked 
Jagadguru Lord Shiva, “O Maheshwara, or Supreme Lord, 
please reveal to me what is jnanam (knowledge).” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Besides the literal or apparent meaning within the ancient spiritual 
text there are many inner connotations with deep spiritual and practical 
significance. They are applicable to every day life and become 
guidelines in the spiritual path. It is the practical aspect that makes 
the scriptures all the more valuable. 

Throughout the ages the Himalayas, in northern India, have 
become the chosen site for the practice of spiritual paths leading to 
Self-realization. These vast mountain ranges, extending over 
hundreds of miles, are the source of many magnificent rivers of 
enormous religious and spiritual significance, such as the Ganga, the 
Yamuna, the Sindhu, the Brahmaputra, and many others. Lay pilgrims 
or spiritual seekers have dipped into these rivers. 

Mount Kailasha, the Himalayan range, and Lake Manasarovar 
are prominent places of pilgrimage for the Hindus, and have attracted 
many a spiritual seeker for eons. Despite the tremendous physical 
strain and risks of traversing the rugged mountains, devotees and 
spiritual seekers are drawn to this sacred spot in order to experience 
divine ecstasy. Ancient mythological Hindu texts are rife with 
descriptions of Mount Kailasha, and its spiritual significance. 



According to these texts Lord Shiva, with his consort, Parvati, 
and their two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya live on Mount Kailasha. 
Shiva is one of the three main deities of the sacred Hindu trinity: 
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, respectively the creator, the sustainer, 
and the dissolver of the universe. 

Ancient mythology describes Shiva as the originator and 
propagator of divine wisdom: Tantra, Yoga, Music, Dance, Grammar, 
and Language. Shiva is the Supreme Master of Tantra, Yoga, and 
meditation; teaching the art of discrimination and detachment from 
his own experience. Shiva remains permanently engrossed in a state 
of deep meditation, experiencing divine bliss. 

There is a scriptural dictum, jnanam maheSvarat icchet : “seek 
divine knowledge from Maheshwara.” Maheshwara consists of 
two words: maha and Ishxvara. Maha means ‘great’ or ‘supreme’ 
and Ishwara means ‘Lord’ or ‘master of prosperity.’ One who 
has thorough control over the senses, mind, and ego is 
Maheshwara or the Supreme Lord. To realize Shiva, a devotee 
must climb Mount Kailasha, his divine abode. 

In the spiritual context, there is a direct correlation between 
the human body and the universe. Just as Mount Kailasha is 
situated in the north, in the high hills of the Himalayas, the 
spiritual Kailasha, in every individual, is located in the fontanel, 
at the sahasrara or the crown of the head, known as the seventh 
chakra in both yogic and tan trie texts. 

The word Kailasha is composed of several Sanskrit letters: ka, 
i, la, a, sha. Ka represents Brahman, i stands for shakti or ‘energy,’ 
la is laya or ‘dissolution,’ a is ‘the first primordial sound’ and sha is 
shira or ‘the head.’ Combined together, Kailasha means the place 
where one realizes the formless Brahman, manifested as divine 
energy. In this inner sanctum all the propensities of the mind 
dissolve, and one can hear the divine sound Om (a u m), beginning 
with the sacred letter a. This place is located at the crown of the 
head. The word Himalaya consists of two words, hima — ‘cold,’ 



‘frigid,’ ‘frosty,’ and alaya — ‘abode,’ ‘house,’ ‘dwelling,’ or 
‘place,’ ‘a place of coolness and calmness.’ North pole in the human 
body is at the top of the head and south pole is at the feet. There 
are many suitable places in the body apt for concentration and 
meditation. Among them, the mid-point of the eyebrows and the 
fontanel, known as the ‘cave of the cranium,’ are considered the 
most favorable in spiritual terms. Focusing at either of these points 
helps dissolve restless propensities, such as anger, ego, and vanity. 
A state of inner calmness is achieved. Each human head has a 
potential to be the Himalaya, a place of coolness and calmness. 
Consciousness and energy can be raised from the lower centers, 
through the spine, to the very peak of Mount Kailasha. Meditation 
is a tool that enables the spiritual seeker to transform life into a 
haven of tranquility, peace, and joy. 

In the first verse, Mahadevi (Parvati), the divine consort, is 
described as seated on Mount Kailasha (the sahasrara chakra), 
seeking knowledge from Shiva, her beloved Lord and master; 
object of her devotion. Parvati represents the power of 
consciousness in every person, embodying the disciple, whereas 
Shiva is the Supreme Self, the divine preceptor. Parvati is the 
daughter of Parvata, ‘the mountain,’ Himalaya, a symbol of 
‘strength,’ ‘determination,’ and ‘unshakable faith.’ Since Parvati 
is an ardent follower of her master, she demonstrates her sincerity 
and devotion through self-enquiry and intent to incorporate 
Shiva’s teachings in practical life. 

The Proper Way to Enquire 

A spiritual journey is a four-fold path of self-evolution. A true 
spiritual seeker should: 

1) Have a burning desire for spiritual progress, 

2) Seek the company of upright and virtuous people and 
become familiar with the scriptures, 



3) Undertake a sincere spiritual practice under the guidance 
of a teacher, 

4) Strive to attain Self-realization. 

Devotees that feel a deep desire for spiritual evolution should 
seek the guidance of a master and gain essential knowledge needed 
to tread the spiritual path. Ego is a barrier in this path. Spiritual 
seekers should humbly approach the master equipped with the 
necessary qualifications and put forth their questions with the sole 
purpose of gaining understanding. A truly spiritual mind is free 
from doubts, and full of calmness. For every valid question, there is 
a valid answer. Some people, however, make the repeated mistake 
of asking questions saturated with ego, so as to exhibit their own 
knowledge. The type of questions asked by disciples in general, fall 
under two categories: 

1) Judgmental questions — In the same way that a teacher poses 
questions to assess a student’s intelligence and comprehension, a 
disciple may pose questions to judge the guru’s competence and 

2) Search for knowledge — Questions are asked with sincere 
devotion and determination to gain spiritual insight. Such enquiry 
arises from the heart with the desire for self-unfoldment. When a 
student is ready, God will send a befitting teacher to impart inner 
knowledge and dissolve the darkness of ignorance. 

In the Bhagavad Gita (4:34) the Lord says, 

tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya 
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninastattvadarSinah 

“To gain knowledge of the Absolute, approach a spiritual 
master. Prostrate with love, surrender, and serve the teacher. 
Ask proper questions with love and humility. Then the teacher 
imparts knowledge, as he has the inner experience.” 



Parvati, sitting at the feet of Shiva, prays, “O Lord of lords, teacher 
of the universe, Maheshwara, please kindle the flame of knowledge 
in me so that the darkness of ignorance and doubt may disappear.” 

Devadeva is a compound word, meaning ‘God of gods’ or 
‘Lord of lords’. Many who lack proper understanding of Hindu 
spiritual traditions consider such phrases to imply polytheism 
(the worship of more than one god). But, in reality, in spiritual 
Hindu tradition there is only one God (Brahman, neither male 
nor female, but of neutral gender), who manifests in varied forms. 
One of the Vedas maintains, ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti: 
“Scholars speak of One Truth in different modes.” 

Diverse Manifestations of the Supreme Self 

There is only One cosmic principle, Brahman or the Absolute, 
permeating this entire creation. So each part of the human body, 
every sense organ has a deva (illumined one) as a presiding deity. 
These deities are described as god with a small ‘g,’ commanding 
various organs of action and perception. 






Speech organ 



Digdevata (deity of space) 

Vayu (deity of the air element) 
Surya (the sun god. According to 
some sages, the left eye, the right eye 
and the third eye are the abode of the 
moon, the sun, and of fire) 

Varuna (deity of the water element) 
Ashwini Kumaras (the twin deities 
considered the celestial ‘physicians’) 
Agni (deity of fire) 

Indra (deity of rain) 

Vishnu (deity of sustenance, the 
second main god belonging to the 
Hindu trinity) 




Yama (deity of death, virtue, and 


Prajapati (deity of birth and 


Chandra (the moon god) 


Brahma (deity of Creation; the first 
main god composing the sacred 
Hindu trinity) 

Ego (Ahamkara) 

Rudra (an epithet for Shiva, 
representing anger) 

Memory ( Citta ) 

Vasudeva (an epithet of Vishnu) 

Muladhara (coccyx) 

Ganesha (the god of knowledge and 

Svadhisthana (sacral) 

Devi, Durga, Kali, and others (goddess 
of strength and creativity) 

Manipura (navel) 

Surya/Agni(sun god/god of fire) 

Anahata (dorsal) 

Vishnu/Narayana (god as a symbol of 
life energy) 

Vishuddha (cervical) 

Shiva (deity of destruction and 
dissolution; third main god composing 
the sacred Hindu trinity) 

Devadeva, ‘God of all gods’ or ‘the indwelling Self,’ is the 
innermost source of illumination to all other devas (gods); the 
Supreme Spirit, whose energy and strength activate all beings. 

Jagadguru means the ‘gum’ or ‘master’ of jagat or ‘the universe.’ 
The etymological meaning of jagat is ‘repeatedly oscillating phenomena.’ 
The universe is constantly evolving and so does the human body. The 
indwelling Self is the real teacher but the universe (jagat ) becomes an 
extensive research center. Each human life is designed for the purpose 
of learning and experiencing Truth within. God manifests as a teacher, 
through many names and forms. God is the Jagadguru. When a person 
is ready to absorb sacred knowledge, it will come in varied forms. 



Maheshwara means Supreme Lord. As stated earlier, the word 
is derived from two Sanskrit terms, maha or ‘great’ or ‘supreme’ 
and Ishwara or ‘lord.’ In each of the seven chakras located in 
the spine, the presence of divinity is described respectively as 
Visva ( Muladhara ), Virat ( Svadhisthana ), Taijas ( Manipura ), 
Hiranyagarbha ( Anahata ), Ishwara ( Vishuddha ), Prajna ( Ajna ), 
and Maheshwara ( Sahasrara ). The abode of God is therefore 
the seat of Maheshwara, or the Supreme Lord. 

A worthy disciple inherits the spiritual treasure from one’s 
own guru. Wisdom is a blessing that can only be acquired 
through a mixture of strong yearning, humility, devotion, and 
service. A guru is ever compassionate, ready to bestow to a 
sincere disciple the spiritual heritage already in one’s possession. 
In this verse, it is clear that Parvati, as recipient, has the right 
attitude. She does not see Shiva as an ordinary husband, but 
perceiving divinity in him, she prays with deep love and 
concentration in order to experience the taste of the divine nectar 
of wisdom. 

Celestial beings are referred to as dev a (m) or devi (f). Parvati, 
portrayed as a devi, represents a sincere disciple filled with a burning 
desire for self-evolvement. Deva and devi are both derived from the 
root word div meaning ‘illumination,’ ‘brilliance,’ and ‘light.’ When 
the restless mind is trained to be tranquil, through the practice of 
meditation and breath control, a level of superconsciousness is 
attained and a devotee is able to experience inner light ( antarjyoti ), 
at the crown of the head, and in all the sense organs. 

sarvadvaresu kaunteya prakasa upajayate 
(Bhagavad Gita 14:11) 

The Lord says, “O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), in every door (of 
the body) divine illumination manifests.” 



Verse 2 

devl uvaca 

kutah srstir bhavet deva 
katham srsti vinaSyati 
brahmajnanam katham deva 
srsti samhara varjitam 


Devi asked, “From where does creation manifest, O Lord, 
and how does it dissolve? What is brahmajnanam 
(knowledge of the Absolute), which is devoid of creation 
and dissolution?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Creation is a cosmic mystery. Scientists of the physical world, 
equipped with tools and analytical observation; philosophers using 
their intellect as a tool; saints, sages, and mystics, through deep 
meditation, have all, in their own way, tried to solve the mystery of 
creation. Yet the clear sky in the darkness of night, with myriads of 
shining bright stars, reminds us again and again that the human 
mind is limited and cannot readily grasp the mystery of creation. 
God is infinite, and creation is extremely vast, complex, and beyond 
human comprehension. 

Divergent multidimensional views of creation are controversial, 
even contradictory. Ancient scriptures such as the Vedas and the 
Upanishads have themselves varied theories of creation and the 
evolutionary process. In this verse, Parvati, embodying the role 
of a seeker, portrays the inner quest in each person: 

i) How did creation begin? 

ii) How does creation come to an end? 

iii) How is knowledge of Brahman (the Absolute), itself 
beyond creation and dissolution, attained? 



In the subsequent verses, Lord Shiva answers these questions 
in detail. It forms the vital foundation for the superstructure of 
divine knowledge. The three basic concepts in this verse are: 
srishti (creation), vinasha (destruction, dissolution), and 
brahmajnana (knowledge of the Absolute; ultimate wisdom). 

Srishti (creation) 

This word is derived from the root word srj, which consists 
of three letters sa, ra, and ja. Sa means ‘the Soul’ or ‘God,’ ra 
means ‘movement’ or ‘vibration’; and ja means ‘manifestation,’ 
‘materialization,’ or ‘to be born.’ The three together imply that 
creation is the vibratory manifestation of the Soul or God. Every 
form of creation is a vibration of cosmic energy; speech is the 
creation of sound through the vibration of the vocal cords in a 
specific way, and thought is also a product of vibration in the 
ocean of the mind. 

Vinasha (complete dissolution) 

This concept is divided into two: vi means ‘perfect’ or ‘complete,’ 
whereas nasha means ‘destruction,’ ‘disappearance,’ or ‘dissolution.’ 
Every beginning has an end; as every creation, in turn, is destroyed. 
Dissolution is ‘perfect disappearance,’ i.e., the creative energy merges 
into the Supreme. A temporary disappearance occurs when we sleep, 
we lose consciousness of ourselves and of the surrounding world. 
Finally, what comes from the Absolute will return to the Absolute. 

Brahmajnana (knowledge of the Absolute) 

Ignorance is darkness; knowledge is light. Human growth is 
directed towards knowledge from childhood to adulthood and is 
repeated in life after life. A child from early on in life shows a great 
eagerness to know what happens around him. “The why of a child 
is the key to philosophy,” it is said. Knowledge is classified in two 
groups, aparavidya (material knowledge) and paravidya (supreme 
knowledge) (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:4). 



Material knowledge ( aparavidya ), is acquired through the 
use of the five sense organs of perception: eyes (sight), ears 
(hearing), nose (smell), tongue (taste), and skin (touch), together 
with the help of the four internal instruments; mind, intellect, 
ego, and memory. The peripheral knowledge is expanded by 
the use of the elasticity and curiosity, inherent to the mind, the 
faulty memory, and the intellect’s capacity for analysis. In 
Sanskrit, this process is described as paroksha-jhana, or ‘the 
indirect means to gain knowledge.’ If the senses or the mind are 
not in a healthy state, the acquisition of knowledge will be 
skewed and the result flawed. 

Spiritual wisdom (paravidya ), on the other hand, can only be 
gained through a-paroksha anubhuti or ‘direct experience.’ Supreme 
Truth is revealed to a sincere seeker once one has disciplined the 
senses and cleansed and purified the mind through deep meditation, 
and devout prayer. A profound awareness of communion with God 
manifests in Absolute Knowledge, a revelation of light unfolding 
itself from inner experience. 

In the Bhagavad Gita (6:22) the Lord teaches, 

yam labdhva caparam labham manyate nadhikam tatah 
yasmin sthito na dukhena gurunapi vicalyate 

“One who gains that beyond which there is no greater, and 
remains established (in it), is not moved (even) by the greatest 


Spiritual knowledge or paravidya dispels ignorance and frees 
an individual from the bondage of pleasure and pain, birth and 
death. This state of pure mind, complete equilibrium, and 
equanimity can only be achieved through self-discipline. 
Knowledge becomes the gateway to liberation. To live in pure 
knowledge, immersed in a state of constant awareness, is to live 
in God. 



Verse 3 

Uvara uvaca 
avyaktat ca bhavet srstih 
avyaktam ca vinaSyati 
avyaktam brahmano jndnam 
srsti samhara varjitam 


Ishwara replied, “Creation comes from avyakta (the un¬ 
manifested) and leads to avyakta (dissolution). Avyaktam is 

brahmajfianam (knowledge of the Absolute), devoid of 
creation and dissolution.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Some world religions maintain that God is formless and some 
teach that God has form. In the Vedic teaching the formless God 
is known as Brahman, beyond all attributes and qualities, beyond 
creation and dissolution, while Ishwara is the manifested aspect 
of God. Perceived within creation Ishwara is the Supreme Soul, 
represented here by Lord Shiva. 

The Taittiriya Upanishad (2:1:3) gives a very lucid and 
exhaustive description of the process of creation. Creation is 
the manifestation of a subtle element into its gross form. The 
Supreme Soul manifested in space, then in air, fire, water, and 
finally, in the earth. Life emerged in sequence from plants and 
trees to animals and humans. The entire creation is nothing but 
a manifestation of the Absolute. 

In the Gita (2:28), the Lord says, 

avyaktadini bhutani vyaktamadhyani bharata 
avyakta nidhananyeva tatra ka paridevana 



“Beings are avyakta, un-manifested, in the beginning, vyakta, 
manifested in the middle and avyakta, un-manifested again at 

the end. O Bharata (Arjuna), what is the cause for grief?” 

Further on, in the Gita (4:3), Lord Krishna offers the following 

mama yonirmahadbrahma tasmin garbham dadamyaham 
sambhava sarvabhutanam tato bhavati bharata 

“Great Brahma (prakriti ) is my womb. In that I cast the seed, and 
from it sprout all beings, O Bharata (Arjuna).” 

Avyakta, in Sanskrit, has multiple meanings.Among them are: 

1) Indivisible, imperceptible, un-manifest, 

2) Primary matter with no shape, 

3) Name of Vishnu as well as Shiva, 

4) Supreme Being, Universal Spirit, Brahman, 

5) The primary germ of Nature, the earliest productive 

6) The Soul, 

7) Indistinct, apparent, 

8) Undeveloped, uncreated. 

The cycle of un-manifest, manifest, back to un-manifest is 
often illustrated in scriptures through an analogy of a piece of 
jewelry made from a lump of gold. That is the principle of 
creation. When the piece of jewelry becomes old or outdated, 
the goldsmith just melts it into gold. This is dissolution. 

According to the Vedas, every creation is the result of two 
causes, known as: 

nimitta karana (the efficient cause) — the skill or the talent 
involved in the process of creation, 

upadana karana (the material cause) — the instruments as 



well as other materials involved in shaping an object. 

In the Mundaka Upanishad (1:1:7), the process of creation is 
explained by the prototype of the spider and its web. A spider’s web 
is a very fine net-like structure spun from its own saliva. The spider 
lives in it, traps its prey, and finally rolls up the cobweb into a ball 
and swallows it. The spider creates, maintains, and destroys the 
web of its own creation. This model is relevant because the spider is 
the efficient as well as the material cause. God is the creator and 
created the universe out of Itself. The creative aspect of God is 
called avyakta, or the un-manifested source. Whatever is created, 
under any name or form, is nothing but the manifestation of God 
alone, from formless to form and again into formless. It is in this 
context that the Upanishad declares, s arvam khalvidam brahma: 
“Everything is Brahman.” 

Many Hindu festivals and rituals reflect the same 
philosophical principle. Among the popular deities are Durga 
and Ganesh. In the fall season, September and October, when 
the crops are gathered, Hindus celebrate their annual holy rituals. 
Artists make and decorate clay images of the deities, in varied 
sizes, for ritual worship of seven to ten days. At an auspicious 
time at the beginning of the festival, priests perform prana- 
pratishtha, a ceremony invoking and establishing the life- 
principle into the idols. Thousands of devotees offer their love 
and devotion to their cherished deities manifested in the idol. At 
the end of the festival, priests celebrate the visarjan ceremony 
— or the dissipation of the life-principle. The idols are taken in 
a procession with great fanfare and immersed in the water of a 
nearby river, where they become dissolved into clay again. The 
source of the un-manifested state is clay (avyakta), the 
intermediate or manifested state is the creation of the idol 
(vyakta), and dissolution takes place when the idol is merged 
back into clay (avyakta). 

From the ‘formless’ apparent ‘form’ comes, but ‘formlessness’ 
remains the reality. One cannot exist without the other; without 



a formless element, form is not possible. The middle stage is 
when form and formless come together, as manifested in the 
creation of plants, animals, and human beings. 

The waves and the ocean are another example. The waves 
are bom in the ocean, lap back and forth but eventually merge 
back into the ocean. The ocean alone remains unchanged. 
Likewise vyakta (creation) starts in avyakta (the un-manifested 
stage) and is dissolved back to avyakta (a return to the un¬ 
manifested source). 

Human life unfolds as an intermediate play of vyakta (the 
manifested stage), but beneath there is a continuous flow of avyakta 
(that which is un-manifested). Each creation is a mixture of vyakta 
and avyakta (body and soul). The human body has a beginning and 
an end, but the soul remains immortal. Knowledge of avyakta is the 
culmination of Self-knowledge, dispelling all ignorance and fear. 
The direct experience of Truth is the most transcendental 
experience for a human being. 

The concept of creation is an enigma but once the mystery 
of life is unveiled, a person will become liberated from the fear 
of birth and death. This is the meaning of immortality. The 
principle of vyakta teaches that if there is creation there is 
dissolution, but the overriding principle of avyakta explains that 
basically there is no change at all. A gold ornament has a 
beginning and an end, but the essence of the gold remains the 
same, no matter what shape it takes. 

Verse 4 

omkarat aksarat sarvah 
tveta vidya caturdasa 
mantra puja tapo dhyanam 
karmakarma tathaiva ca 




Omkara (the letter aum) is imperishable and encompasses 
all the fourteen vidyas (fourteen branches of knowledge), 
along with the six spiritual practices of chanting, worship, 
penance, meditation, action, and inaction. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Aum is not a word but a symbol, a sound, which is sometimes 
represented as Om. Ordinary people chant it, but tantrics and yogis 
listen to the sacred sound while immersed in a meditative state. 

Om is namabrahma the name of God (the Formless, Absolute 

Om is shabdabrahma the manifestation of the Absolute through 

Om is nadabrahma the cosmic vibration, which is a 

continuous spontaneous, uninterrupted 
sound experienced in deep meditation. 

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, aum is described as a 
representation of the Absolute. 

Knowledge of the sound is the beginning of revelation, the door 
to inner awakening. Om, as the primordial sound, filled with a 
vibrating energy, is the cause of every action. Creation started 
with the sound, survives with the sound, will dissolve in the 

In every religion, there is the use of a sacred sound syllable, 
like aum, amen, and amin. Omkara, otherwise called aum, is 
the holy syllable chanted in the beginning and at the end of the 
Hindu scriptures, ritualistic worship, mantras, and prayers. In 
the Gita (8:13) it states, om iti ekaksara brahma: “The single 
syllable aum is Brahman.” In the Holy Bible, there is the 
description of word and sound, “In the beginning was the Word, 



and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 

The term akshara entails two separate concepts; the first refers 
to imperishable letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, the second indicates 
the totality of all sounds. In the Sanskrit alphabet, a — is the first 
letter, ksha — the last and ra — is the root mantra for ‘fire.’ The 
meaning of akshara is ‘the beginning and the end’; ‘the alpha and 
the omega.’ Every sound produced is like ‘fire,’ with the capacity of 
burning ignorance if used in the right way, and creating damage and 
chaos if used in the wrong way. 

Here in verse four. Lord Shiva explains to Parvati, that omkara 
is akshara. Akshara has multiple interpretations: it is imperishable, 
indestructible, undeceiving; it is firm, fixed, unalterable; it also 
represents the entire cosmos through Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; it also 
represents Brahman, the Absolute; it is also a letter in the alphabet; 
it connotes sound, word, or speech. 

The Lord continues, “0 Parvati, from this divine sound aum 
comes all knowledge. In addition to this, it is also the source of 
mantra, puja, tapas, dhyana, karma, and akarma!' There are six 
types of practices obligatory for householders and seekers: 


Vedic hymns, prayers, 


adoration, ritualistic worship, 


penance, religious austerity, mortification, 


contemplation, reflection, meditation, 


religious rights, moral duty, practice, and training, 


absence of necessary observances, inaction, 

Lord Shiva teaches Parvati the secret spiritual wisdom of deep 
meditation. Through meditation, the mind is cleansed, is gifted 
with the faculty of discrimination, becomes free from negatives, 
and is established in Truth. 




Vidya means knowledge. The scriptures define this kind of higher 
knowledge as the gateway to liberation. People fall into the clutches 
of fear, suffering, and misery out of ignorance but once darkness 
disappears, a devotee is able to lead a life of discrimination, 
understanding, and love. At this stage, life becomes fully 
enjoyable and ceases to be a burden. The fourteen stages of 
vidya are elaborated in the next verse. 

Verse 5 

sadanga veda catvari 
mlmamsa nyaya vistarah 
dharma&astra puranani 
eta vidya caturdasam 


The four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharvaj, the six limbs of 
the Vedas (Shadanga) as well as the four remaining steps 
(Mimamsa, Nyaya, Dharma-Shastra and the Puranasj, 
constitute the fourteen types of vidya. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In ancient times, when there were no books, pupils could 
only learn by listening to their guru, who was the only reliable 
source of material and spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge 
was only handed down to students when one became an 
apprentice to a qualified teacher. A disciple would join the guru’s 
ashram, in a quiet comer of a forest, and dedicate many years to 
the gradual acquisition of knowledge. This system of learning 
is called direct association and it has proved, through the ages, 
to be highly practical and beneficial in regard to spiritual growth. 



Nevertheless, the study of the scriptures and related topics 
can only be supplementary to inner experience gained through 
practice. In modem times, there is an explosion of information that 
is often contradictory and overwhelming. By using the sense organs, 
especially sight and hearing, an individual enlarges the periphery 
of one’s experience and knowledge. Such learning as a means 
of acquiring knowledge has several shortcomings. First, the 
limited nature of books cannot convey a subject entirely, since 
there is a deeper level that can only be grasped through analysis, 
contemplation, and meditation after which one arrives at the 
ultimate stage of comprehensive wisdom. Second, unless 
scriptural knowledge is applied in daily life, it is useless and 
becomes instrumental in raising a person’s ego. Finally, words 
and books cannot answer all the questions that arise in the m ind 
of a spiritual seeker. In modern society, people are mostly 
interested in material wealth and fail to realize that Self- 
realization, although intangible, is a rare treasure. 

Vidya is the beginning and the end; the means as well as the 
goal. Elaborating the path of knowledge, Shiva explains each 
of the fourteen steps: the four Vedas, Rig, Yajur, Sama, and 
Atharva; the Shadanga (six limbs or auxiliaries of the Vedas), 
Siksha, Chandas, Vyakaranam, Nirukta, Jyotisha and Kalpa; and 
the four steps, Mimamsa, Nyaya, Dharmashastra, and the 


The four Vedas are called Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. 

Rig The first Veda is devoted to praising the glory 

of God. It really means to utter every word as 
a mantra using speech with love and devotion. 

Yajur The second Veda addresses the need (through 

countless inner connotations) of reaching 
union with God, at every step of life. 











The third Veda illustrates the state of inner 
harmony and self-discipline required for 
advancement in spiritual life. 

The fourth Veda is dedicated to achieving 
unending happiness and bliss while 
experiencing divinity. It brings about mental 
and astral purification. 

Comprises the six limbs or auxiliaries of the Vedas, 
described as Siksha, Chandas, Vyakaranam, 
Nirukta, Jyotisha, and Kalpa. 

It is the science of proper articulation and 
pronunciation in the fields of instruction and 
training. Metaphorically, it is the acquisition of 
knowledge through the path of self-discipline and 

It is the study of prosody (verse forms and poetic 
meters) or material science. Metaphorically, it is 
the ability to synchronize life’s beat to the rhythm 
of a calm breath and a heart full of love playing 
all elements in perfect equilibrium. 

It is the analysis of grammar; composition of 
words, tenses, verbs; expansion of linguistic ability 
and discrimination. Metaphorically, it means 
to lead a life full of discrimination and to 
speak with purity and love. 

It is an etymological account of difficult Vedic 
words. Metaphorically, it is an interpretation of 
the scriptures as a guide for the cultivation of 
soul consciousness. 

It means ‘astrology,’ ‘light,’ ‘luster,’ ‘brightness,’ 
‘flash,’ and ‘the light derived from the divine 



principle.’ Metaphorically, it is to experience 
inner light through meditation, and to radiate 
the light of love and knowledge in every 
thought, word, and deed. 

Kalpa It is the set of prescribed rules laid down at 

rituals or ceremonies. Metaphorically, it means 
to perceive God in every thought. 

The four remaining steps are Mimamsa, Nyaya, 
Dharmashastra, and the Puranas. 

Mimamsa is ‘deep reflection,’ ‘enquiry,’ and ‘philosophy.’ 
The ‘path of enquiry’ is divided into two groups; Purva Mimamsa 
of Jainini and Uttara Mimamsa of Vyasa. Purva Mimamsa is an 
elaborate explanation and instruction on spiritual practices 
aiming at self-discipline and inner purification. Vyasa’s Uttara 
Mimamsa is also known as Brahmasutra or Aphorisms on the 
Absolute Brahman, or even more famously, as Vedanta. 

Nyaya is associated with Sage Goutama and is translated as 
‘Law’ or ‘The Science of Logic.’ Metaphorically, it means to 
follow the path of justice, morality, and truth. 

Dharmashastra is the Code of Law or Jurisprudence. In 
Sanskrit it is known as smruti. Metaphorically, smruti means 
‘memory’ — to remember God in every breath. When there is a 
situation of confusion or conflict these vidyas are designed to 
show ‘the right path.’ The following sixteen smrutis are perhaps 
the most important: manu smruti, yama smruti, vasistha smruti, 
atri smruti, vishnu smruti, angirasa smruti, usana smruti, vakpati 
smruti, vyasa smruti, apastamba smruti, goutama smruti, 
katyayana smruti, yajnavalka smruti, narada smruti, parasara 
smruti, samkha smruti. 

Puranas are part of an ancient encyclopedia containing various 



branches of knowledge, which form the backbone of Hindu 
Mythology. Puran nava iti is defined in the following way: while 
ancient, the message is still new (relevant). The Puranas, composed 
by Sage Vyasa, deliberate on five topics: sarga (creation), 
pratisarga (dissolution and recreation), vamsa (dynasty and 
genealogy), manvantara (the span and rule of the fourteen Manus), 
and vamsacharita (the story of each dynasty, especially the Solar 
and Lunar dynasties). The Puranas also include three of the most 
well-known scriptures; the Bhagavatam, the Ramayana, and the 
Mahabharata. Metaphorically, Puranas mean ‘the indwelling Self;’ 
‘the ancient One’ or purana/puratana. 

These are the fourteen disciplines ( vidyas) needed to attain 
knowledge. In spiritual practice these fourteen represent the 
fourteen steps of breath up and down the seven chakras in the 
spine, while immersed in a state of deep meditation and 
communion with God. The purpose of knowledge is to realize 
the divine nature of the inner Self; whose essence permeates the 
entire universe. 

Verse 6 

tavad vijfid bhavet sarva 
yavad jiianatn na jayate 
brahmajhanam padam jnatva 
sarva vidya sthira bhavet 


In spite of knowing all the above, one does not get 
knowledge of the Ultimate. Only by attaining brahmajhana 
(is) all other knowledge firmly established. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

The path of knowledge is the path of liberation. True 
knowledge is awareness of the Self; which begins with the 
enquiry of ‘Who am I?’ and culminates with the experience of 
‘I am That.’ This inner journey starts in the exterior world, 
controlled by the mind and the sense organs, and ends when 
the state of wisdom is attained through complete God- 
consciousness. Wisdom, in Sanskrit, is known as prajna or 

There are three stages to achieve the state of wisdom. The 
first stage is the ‘acquisition of knowledge’ or jhana. This 
encompasses the accumulation of theoretical knowledge received 
from different teachers and careful study of the scriptures. 

The second stage is ‘applied knowledge’ or vijhana. This is the 
direct implementation of theoretical knowledge obtained from 
diverse sources, for the purpose of Self unfoldment. Once this is 
achieved, it is crucial to remain in a state of inner awakening, living 
a life of soul consciousness. The third and last stage is to be firmly 
established in a permanent state of wisdom (prajnana). When this 
summit is attained, a spiritual seeker becomes enlightened. 

Every individual is blessed with four inner instruments 
comprising the mind, intellect, ego, and memory. Ordinarily, 
human intelligence is only used for material gain, yet life will 
remain incomplete unless it is filled with a spiritual component. 
In order to attain lasting and enduring happiness, a spiritual 
seeker must have a balanced development in the physical, 
emotional, mental, and spiritual spheres. Every living being 
needs food to survive but if the food is not easily digested or 
assimilated, even the most nourishing food can become a health 
hazard. Knowledge is the nutrition human beings require for a 
richer lifestyle but it must be assimilated, integrated, and applied 
in daily life. Book knowledge is indirect and therefore limited, 
Self-knowledge, on the other hand, is inexhaustable and can 



only be obtained through direct experience of Truth. Once the 
state of shtitaprajna is reached, a seeker becomes established 
in wisdom (Gita 2:54-68). 

In this verse. Lord Shiva uses the words: 

Padam jnatva ‘knowing the feet’ i.e., to attain divine 
knowledge, the Feet of God must be perceived inside the mind. 
A Vedic mantra illustrates this concept well, tad vishno param 
padam: “Those who are self-disciplined, the real heroes, will 
experience the Feet of the Supreme within the calmness of the 
mind, in the center of the third eye.” 

Sarva vidya encompasses all branches of knowledge. One 
of the Upanishads describes the Absolute as, yasmin vijnate 
sarvam idam vijnanam bhavati : “Having known the One, 
everything (else) is known.” When real knowledge is grasped 
and assimilated, it automatically applies to every situation. A 
Self-realized person experiences God in all. A second meaning 
of sarva vidya refers to dasa mahavidya, the worship of the 
Divine Mother in all her different ten manifestations. This is in 
turn correlated with the ten incarnations of Vishnu, one aspect 
of the Hindu trilogy. 

Sthira bhavet — when a person reads an inspiring work full 
of elevating thoughts or listens to a spiritual lecture, one 
transcends a mundane perspective, acquiring a glimpse of the 
inner Self for a short-lived moment. Nevertheless, a really 
spiritual person should constantly remain established in wisdom, 
experiencing Truth in every thought, word, and action. Just as a 
student who wishes to become a doctor must go to a medical 
school, a spiritual seeker must practice and imbibe all knowledge 
to achieve absolute proficiency as a yogi. Practice and discipline 
are the keys to success in life, both in worldly and spiritual terms. 



Verse 7 

veda Sastra puranani 
samanya ganika iva 
yd punah Sambhavi vidya 
gupta kula-vadhuriva 


The Vedas, Shastras, and Puranas are like common 
entertainers compared to the shambhavi vidya — 
knowledge descending from Shiva — as the chaste lady of a 

noble family. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This passage indicates that acquisition of scriptural 
knowledge is available to all but is sometimes used for self- 
serving material advantage, fame, and fortune. Lahiri 
Mahashaya, a highly accomplished yogi, used to say, “Many 
talk about the scriptures, but only a rare few put them into 
practice,” underlining the superficial scriptural knowledge 
devoid of practical application in everyday living. 

Shambhavi vidya 

Since scriptural knowledge is theoretical, it provides only 
temporary pleasure, but Self-knowledge or shambhavi vidya is 
the fountainhead of eternal joy. Self-realization has no identifiable 
external signs but manifests inwardly as divine peace, bliss, and 
joy. A common singer or entertainer may have temporary joy, 
may be won by flattery or money. But a chaste accomplished 
woman finds inner value and is like a hidden treasure of solid 
Self-knowledge. She is a source of bliss and freedom forever. 

Shambhavi vidya is the accumulated wisdom of Shiva, 
attained through deep meditation. Shiva is the Supreme Yogi, 



constantly absorbed in meditation and unaffected by the 
disturbances and commotions of everyday life. 

The essence of the Vedic scriptures is open ( mukta) and at 
the same time concealed (gupta). The hidden message is 
experienced only through inner awakening. The scriptures, as 
such, are available to everyone, but Truth, just like chastity, is a 
rare gift. 

Verse 8 

dehasthah sarva vidyaSca 
dehasthah sarva devatah 
dehasthah sarva tirthani 
guru vakyena labhyate 


In this body can be found all the branches of knowledge, 
every god and goddess, and all the holy places, which can 
be reached only through the teachings of the guru. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Each body is a temple in which the soul manifests itself. It is 
a God-built shrine and should be treated with the dignity it 
deserves as a repository of divinity. A body should be taken 
care of through proper nourishment, cleansing, exercise, and 
rest. It is the building stone for spiritual evolution. 

Sarva vidya 

God and the entire divine creation reside within each being. 
Every individual contains a storehouse of all-encompassing 
wisdom but only a selected few can tap into the enormous energy 
hidden under the surface. Vidya, in this context, represents 



knowledge but also refers to dasamahavidya, a special way of 
worshipping the Divine Mother, source of universal energy. 


All deities or sarva devata, are only manifestations of the Supreme 
One present in each human shrine. In order to progress on the 
spiritual path, seekers must be able to transform their outlook towards 
the body, discipline the mind, and confirm the divinity latent within. 
If the body is seen to be all-important, it will lead to body 
consciousness, which is a source of bondage. Conversely, if a 
body is neglected it will lead to sickness. The human body is 
the temple of God, it should not be condemned, only subdued 
for the ultimate goal of transformation, the realization of “I am 
That” — the soul beyond the body. 

Sarva tirtha 

One major aspect of Hindu practice is to go on a pilgrimage to 
attain spiritual merit and purify the body and mind. Holy places 
are often located on the bank of rivers; at the confluence of rivers; 
by the ocean side; or on a mountain. Similarly, in each human 
body there are special places, holy like the places of pilgrimage, 
where divinity is manifested. Lord Shiva teaches, dehasthah sarva 
tirthani: “All the holy places are located in the body.” 

Many scriptures vividly describe teertha as the divine qualities 
that can be cultivated during a lifespan. One of them, for instance, 
is kshama teertha or the quality of forgiveness. Just as the body 
and mind get cleansed while taking a dip in the river or ocean in 
a holy place, the mind becomes purified when it is suffused 
with divine qualities. 

In the last part of this verse — guru vakyena labhyate — 
Lord Shiva speaks of the most crucial turning point in spiritual 
life, which is the relationship with the guru. Everything is possible 
through the words or grace of the guru. In reality, spiritual 



wisdom or experience is not the monopoly of gurus but of the 
Supreme Guru or God. 

Nevertheless, only the most worthy student is able to perceive 
and assimilate the practical instructions handed down from one’s 
predestined guru. A sincere devotee should possess the 
following qualities: 

1) Viveka (good judgement or discrimination) — to be able to 
distinguish between what is real and what is unreal, 
permanent, or temporary, 

2) Vairagya (dispassion) — the cultivation of non-attachment, 

3) Shama damadi shatsampathi (the six-fold spiritual treasures) 

i) shama control over the restless mind, 

ii) dama 

iii) uparati 

iv) sraddha 

v) titiksha 

control over the sense organs, 

indifferent outlook for worldly endeavours; 
love for spiritual evolution, 

faith in the the holy scriptures 
and the teachings of the guru, 

forbearance, equal-balance in all states of 
life; non-reactionary attitude, 

vi ) samadhana maintenance of the state of harmony and 

4) Mumukshuttva (strong yearning for liberation and emancipation). 

A disciple, endowed with all these qualities, is worthy of 
receiving the grace of the guru, as well as his practical guidance, 
in order to experience the highest spiritual truth, embodied in 
the realization of the Absolute. 



Verse 9 

adhyatma vidyahi nrnam 
saukhya mauksa kari bhavet 
dharma karma tatha japyam 
etat sarvam nivartate 


Through adhyatma vidya (the experience of spiritual 
wisdom), a person can obtain both happiness and liberation. 

All other preliminaries like dharma, karma, and japa will 
not be of any interest, thereafter. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Human life manifests itself through knowledge and love. 
Knowledge, according to the Mundaka Upanishad, is of two types: 
para (supreme spiritual wisdom) and apara (material knowledge). 

Adhyatma vidya 

To fully appreciate the hidden value of spiritual wisdom or 
adhyatma vidya, one must first understood vyavaharika vidya or 
material knowledge. Material knowledge leads to a life dedicated 
to pleasure-seeking activities, guided by the sense organs. This 
type of existence might seem alluring in the beginning but leaves 
the extrovert person with the inexorable feeling of anguish and 
emptiness. On the other hand, the spiritual path is much harder, 
since it requires a high dose of sacrifice, negation, and self-control. 
But ultimately, spiritual wisdom is the source of permanent joy; 
making the mind and senses introvert while quickening inner 
growth. Few choose the subtle spiritual path over that of worldly 
comfort. Yet with a clear mind, a discriminative intellect, a rational 
outlook, and sincerity to gain adhyatma vidya, a person can 
achieve a state of constant happiness and liberation. 



Sukha and moksha 

Sukha (happiness) and moksha (liberation) need further 
elaboration. Lahiri Mahasaya teaches, 

kha sabda akata brahman 
samipa kha sukha durena kha duhkha 

Kha is ‘the formless sky’ or Brahman, while sukha means 
‘happiness.’ The metaphorical meaning is that happiness is derived 
from being closer to the sky, or the formless stage of divine 
consciousness. Distance from God results in suffering. The seeker 
who meditates by raising energy from the vishuddha chakra (throat 
center), to the cave of the cranium or the abode of God, will experience 
indescribable inner happiness, achieving liberation or moksha. Moksha 
is derived from two words, moha (delusion) and kshaya (elimination), 
i.e., to reach the stage where all delusion is eliminated and freedom 
from bondage is achieved. In order to reach this highly advanced 
ecstatic state of joy and liberation, different disciplines must be 
followed: these are known as dharma, karma, and japa. 


The Sanskrit word dharma has been incorrectly translated 
by modern scholars to mean religion. But dharma is a word 
with multiple meanings such as ‘Law,’ ‘moral virtues,’ ‘Duty,’ 
‘Justice,’ ‘property,’ ‘morality,’ ‘character,’ ‘nature,’ ‘manner,’ 
‘good company,’ ‘devotion,’ and ‘the soul.’ 

The literal meaning of dharma is derived form the root verb dhr 
i.e., ‘to hold or uphold,’ in this sense dharma is ‘that which upholds 
life.’ Every breath has the all-important role of upholding the life 
principle in the body; breath, therefore, can be considered a form 
of dharma, at the root of our existence. Through breath or dharma, 
life prevails in a person. In the absence of breath or dharma, there 
is no strength, no beauty, no vitality, a body is dead and useless. 
Once the breath becomes the equivalent of dharma, or ‘the upholder 
of life,’ it is easier to understand the role of karma. 




Karma represents ‘action,’ ‘performance of religious rituals,’ 
and ‘moral duty.’ Breath is equivalent to dharma, so a seeker 
should strive, through direct action (karma), to control the breath. 
Breath mastery will promote self-mastery or self-control over 
the extrovert senses. Karma, in this context, becomes prana 
karma , i.e., ‘self-regulation’ or ‘mastery over the breath.’ As a 
result, the spiritual aspirant will struggle to gain rigid control 
over physical, emotional, and intellectual activities eliminating 
all negative propensities and achieving a state of calmness, 
peace, and balance. 


Japa means, in most spiritual practices, ‘to repeat or chant 
the name of God’ or a ‘holy word.’ But when japa is linked to 
karma, the organ of speech is used for a higher purpose. As it 
was explained in the first part of this volume, japa can be of 
three types: audible, in soft whisper, or mental chanting. In the 
context of inner spiritual practice, japa is ‘to be conscious that 
every breath is the manifestation of God’s love,’ therefore 
bringing renewed energy into the body. This exercise is called 
ajapa-japa, i.e., non-chanting chant. The acquisition of spiritual 
wisdom instills a new outlook in the life of a devotee; ordinary 
things become extraordinary as one becomes absorbed in the 
state of permanent joy and all-encompassing love. 

When one achieves the highest state of spiritual experience 
bestowing unfading and transcendental bliss all other practices 
and temporary satisfaction go away, as the lights of twinkling 
stars disappear with the rising sun. 



Verse 10 

kastha madhye yatha vahni 
puspe gandhah payo ’mrtam 
deha madhye tatha devah 
punyam papam vivarjitam 


Like kindling in a fire, like the fragrance of the flower, and 
like cream in the milk, God resides in a body devoid of 
virtue or sin. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The basis of all spiritual and philosophical inquiry is for the Self 
or ko’ham: ‘Who am I?’ This is the most fundamental question 
during one’s life journey. When a seeker finds the answer, realization 
is experienced. A path that helps a spiritual aspirant to experience 
the reality of life is to understand the role of the body and the mind 
by controlling these two fundamental aspects of life. A teacher, 
rather than a written text, becomes a valuable guide, since an 
enlightened gum provides a map for student’s progress on the road 
of Self-enquiry. Books can only offer general descriptions, with 
complex meanings that are difficult to decipher, whereas the 
predestined gum gives his blessings and personalized guidance. 

The One, the Eternal Self, beyond the reach of the senses, 
can only be realized through deep meditation. While immersed 
in ecstatic contemplation a devotee is able to grasp the vision of 
the indwelling power of God. The following mantra reveals the 
omnipresence of God in everyday objects: 

tilesu tailam dadhaniva sarpih 
apah srotah-svaranlsu cagnih 
evam atma’ tmani grhyate ’sau 
satyenainam tapasa yo’ nupatyatl 
(The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 1:15) 



“As oil in sesame seed, as butter in cream, as water in the 
river bed, as fire in kindling sticks, so is the Self realized in 
one’s own soul, if one looks for God with truthfulness and 
austerity. The Self which is the root of Self-knowledge and 
austerity that pervades all things; as butter is contained in 
milk, so is the Brahman, the highest mystical doctrine.” 

People offer oblations of ghee into the sacred fire. Ghee is 
made from milk, but if one pours milk into the fire, the fire will 
be extinguished. Yet, if butter is extracted from milk, by using a 
proper technique, and converted into ghee and subsequently 
offered to the sacred fire; it will enhance its brilliance. Similarly, 
although God is present in every individual, only through the 
path of self-discipline and meditation can inner Truth become 

In this verse there are two words, deha or ‘the body’ and 
deva or ‘God.’ In Sanskrit, the body is called deha which consists 
of two parts, de and ha\ the union of ‘the formless’ with ‘form.’ 
On the other hand, deva or God is the source of life, knowledge, 
and illumination. 

Verse 11 

Ida bhagavati gahga 
pingala yamuna nadl 
idapingalayor madhye 
susumna ca sarasvatl 


Ida is the divine river Ganga, pingala is the river Yamuna, 
and between ida and pingala lies sushumna, which is the 




Metaphorical Interpretation 

Pilgrims travel a long way to visit holy places situated on the 
banks of rivers, or the mountaintops; or by the seashore. This 
involves physical strain, time, and energy. A truly spiritual seeker 
tries to find the ‘holy places,’ ‘rivers,’ and ‘shrines’ within one’s 
inner universe. 

In this verse, Lord Shiva mentions the main rivers present 
within the microcosm of the human body. Just as a river 
originates from the high mountains or lakes, and on its path 
other rivers join it, within the human body, there are numerous 
nerve-channels originating from the source of the cerebro-spinal 
system, with manifold veins and arteries, which carry not only 
blood, but in a symbolic way, the sum total of experiences, both 
physical and psychological, from one nerve plexus to another. 

According to the Prashna Upanishad (3:6) there are 101 chief 
nerves, each again divided into 100 branches, and subject to further 
sub-division. In the scriptures there is an interesting parallel between 
some nerves ( nadis ), associated with specific parts of the human 
body, and which correspond, in tum, to the holy rivers of Bharata 
(ancient India). 





from the left side of the brain 
to the muladhara 



from the right side of the brain 
to the muladhara 



the central channel inside the 
spinal cord 



muladhara to svadhisthana 
(anus and genital area) 



svadhisthana (genital organs) 



from the neck to the toes, in the 
right foot 





from the neck to the toes, in the 
left foot 



the right eye 



the left eye 



the right ear 



from the left ear to the lower 




the tip of the tongue 



the belly 



the face 



the nose 


The cerebro-spinal system of a human being is a very intricate 
mechanism and remains a mystery, even to scientists, who are still 
trying to explore the source of infinite energy. This energy is 
manifested in the body through the spinal canal. In this verse, the 
three nadis (nerve-channels) ida, pingala, and sushumna are 
compared to the three holy rivers flowing inside the spine. 
Merudanda or the spine has a beautiful meaning: meru means ‘the 
poles’ such as the North Pole and the South Pole of the earth, and 
danda specifies ‘a staff’ or a ‘vertical axis.’ This is an illustration of 
the polarity in life being the root cause of boundless flowing energy. 

Verse 12 

trivenl samgamo yatra 
tirtharaja sa ucyate 
tatra sndnamprakurvlta 
sarva papairpramucyate 


Where there is triveni sangama (the confluence of the three 
holy rivers), it becomes the holiest of holy places and by 
taking a bath there, one is freed from all sins. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Triveni stands for the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, 
and the Saraswati, the place where the three holy rivers meet. This 
union is also known as prayaga raj or the ‘royal confluence.’ There 
are several prayagas (confluences) in the Himalayas, such as rudra 
prayaga, kama prayaga, deva prayaga, which are meeting points 
of these holy rivers. Since time immemorial, saints, sages, and 
countless spiritual aspirants have been living and meditating at such 
places. A good example is the holy city of Allahabad, the site of the 
historic Kumbhamela, every twelve years. 

Teertha in Sanskrit has multiple meanings such as: ‘passage,’ 
‘road,’ ‘a way,’ ‘a descent into the river,’ ‘a place of water,’ ‘a holy 
place,’ or ‘a sacred teacher.’ Teertharaja signifies ‘the most holy 
place.’ That taking bath or a dip in a holy river purifies one of sins 
and helps attain liberation is one of the major beliefs in H i n du 
tradition. Therefore, teertha also means a place of pilgrimage. 

In the previous verse we discussed how the inner rivers are 
in reality energy channels within the body. The ajna chakra 
and the muladhara chakra correspond to the two major places 
of confluence where the ida (Ganga), pingala (Yamuna), and 
sushumna (Saraswati) meet. The upper junction, ajna chakra is 
known as yukta triveni or ‘united confluence.’ The lower junction 
is called mukta triveni or ‘separated confluence,’ located at the 
base of the spine; it is the playground of instincts and emotions. 
A true seeker must raise consciousness to the upper confluence 
to experience inner peace, bliss, and joy. 

Papa in Sanskrit is ‘sin.’ But what is really sin? The greatest 
sin is to forget, “Who am I?” and to think, “I am the body.” To 
commit repeated mistakes, through the senses, is a sin. Sarva 
means ‘all,’ but it can also mean ‘the senses.’ Sarvapapa is to 
cultivate a pleasure-seeking attitude in life. How to be free from 
this? The answer is to take a cleansing bath and regain inner 



purity. A body can be cleansed externally with water, but that is 
not the true meaning; the holy scriptures advocate, snanamana 
malatyaga : “A bath is the purification of the mind.” To be free 
from all negative tendencies and impurities, a devotee should 
come up to the place of knowledge, i.e., ajna chakra and become 
immersed in soul consciousness. In this holy sanctum, a spiritual 
aspirant is purified and freed from the sinful clutch of the senses. 

Verse 13 

kidrSi khecari mudra 
vidya ca sambhavi punah 
kidriy adhyatma vidya ca 
tanme briihi maheSvara 


Devi asked, “O Maheshwara, please explain to me what is 
khechari mudra, what is shambhavi vidya, and what is the 
meaning of adhyatma vidya.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Parvati, the Divine Mother, asks three questions: 

1) What is khechari mudra? 

2) What is shambhavi vidya? 

3) What is adhyatma vidya? 

Khechari mudra 

Khechari mudra is a yogic practice, described in many 
traditional and classical texts and scriptures. In Hatha Yoga it is 
defined as the elongation and penetration of the tongue into the 
upper passage of air, or the epiglottis. 



In the Shiva Samhita (Verses 53-54), khechari mudra is 
glorified in the following terms, 

mudraisa khecari prokta bhaktanam anurodhatah 
siddhinam jananl hyesa mama pranadhikadhike priye 
nirantara krtabhyasam piyusam pratyaham pibet 
tena nigraham siddhisyat mrtyu matanga kesari 

“At the request of the devotees, khechari mudra is revealed; it 
is the mother of all success, and even dearer than my own 
life. Practice it continuously, and drink the divine nectar daily. 
In this way, one gets the state of inner peace, similar to the 
one that ensues at the end of a war between the elephant and 
the lion, resulting in the death of the elephant.” 

Allegorically this means bringing thorough control over the 
breath and desires. 

Shambhavi vidya 

Shambhavi vidya is also a yogic practice of meditation. The 
name itself is derived -from Shambhu, a synonym for Shiva. 
Shambhu signifies samyak - bhu or ‘perfect manifestation.’ In 
classical yogic literature it is accurately described, 

antar laksa bahir drsti nimesa unmesa varjita 
mudra tu Sambhavl prokta sarva tantresu gopita 

“Inner goal and outer look, without blinking of the eyes is 
shambhavi mudra, a hidden secret technique described in most 


Adhyatma vidya 

Vidya comes from the root verb vid, which means ‘to know,’ 
so vidya is the equivalent of knowledge. The Mundaka Upanishad 
declares that vidya or knowledge is of two types, para or ‘supreme 
knowledge’ and apara or ‘relative knowledge’ of the material 
world. Real knowledge is Self-knowledge, otherwise known as 



adhyatma vidya. The Bhagavad Gita (10:32) describes adhyatma 
vidya or ‘spiritual knowledge’ as the best form of knowledge. 
Through simple living, positive thinking, a lifestyle devoid of 
ego, and the daily practice of meditation, a seeker acquires spiritual 
knowledge, experiencing inner bliss and peace. Lord Shiva 
elaborates further on these three topics in the following verses. 

Verse 14 

isvara uvaca 

manah sthiram yasya vinavalambanam 
vayu sthiro yasya vinavarodhanam 
drstih sthira yasya vinavalokanam 
sa eva mudra vicaranti khecari 


Ishwara said, “The state where the mind is steady, 

independent of any support, where vayu (the breath) is 
tranquil and effortless, and where the gaze is still, without 
perception, is khechari mudra.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Restlessness is a symbol of activity while calmness leads to 
liberation. To live in the world successfully is to master the art 
of inner stillness. To be calmly active and actively calm is taught 
by all the great spiritual masters. Every spiritual path underlines 
the paramount importance of attaining the state of calmness. In 
this verse, Lord Shiva concentrates on the three stages of stillness 
that need to be cultivated in order to achieve spiritual progress: 

i) Stillness of the mind, 

ii) Stillness of the breath, 

iii) Stillness in look and outlook. 



Thorough control of the body, the mind and the breath are 
necessary tools for spiritual evolution. Like any other 
instruments, the body and the mind need to be kept healthy and 
strong. The body should be well toned, free from unnecessary 
fat or cumbersome folds of flesh. A body requires good hygiene, 
a proper diet, and adequate physical exercise on a daily basis. 

The body and mind are correlated, so the mind must be kept 
calm, peaceful, and in strict control of the senses. A healthy 
mind is a strong mind, devoid of illusions. Proper attention 
should be given to the breath. Breath-control leads to mind- 
control. Yoga offers countless scientific techniques to achieve 

If a person attains a calm and tranquil state, it is reflected in 
one’s gaze, and inner composure. A quivering gaze is a symptom of 
a restless mind and an agitated lifestyle. A spiritual aspirant’s look 
and outlook should be one of compassion and love, while being 
able to withdraw attention inwards and remain fixed in constant 
communion with the Absolute. 

Verse 15 

Uvara uvaca 

balasya murkhasya yathaiva cetah 
svapnena hlno’pi karoti nidram 
tato gatah patho niravalambah 
sa eva vidya vicaranti §ambhcivi 


Similar to the awareness of an innocent child or a naive 
person, or the awareness of deep dreamless sleep, 
proceeding in the path of meditation, without assistance, is 
called shambhavi vidya. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse explains the principle of shambhavi vidya, 
otherwise known as shambhavi mudra. The meaning of 
shambhavi is manifold: it is a synonym for Parvati; a way to 
describe green durva (a special grass used in Hindu rituals); a 
name used to portray the opening in the crown of the head 
through which the soul is said to escape once it leaves the body; 
and finally it is the name of a yogic mudra - a yogic practice. 

Shambhavi mudra 

Shambhavi mudra is one of the most complex forms of meditation. 
As described in Verse 13, it is “inner goal and outer look, without 
blinking of the eyes.” A devotee must practice open-eyed meditation 
with attention fixed on the fontanel. The eyes must remain sightless 
and unblinking. 

The Gheranda Samhita, a classical treatise on Yoga, speaks 
of shambhavi mudra in the following terms, 

satyam satyam punah satyam 
satyam ukta maheSvarah 
Sambhavi yo vijaniyat 
sa ca brahma jagannatha 
(verse 3:67) 

It is the truth repeatedly asserted by Lord Shiva, that one 
who knows and masters shambhavi is none but Brahman or 
Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. With the practice of 
shambhavi mudra, meditation becomes more spontaneous, and 
devotees are able to experience the state of inner calmness and 
love, even with eyes wide open. When disciples perfect the 
practice of shambhavi mudra, they perceive all with childlike 
simplicity, the mind becomes free from agitation, and sleepless 
form of calmness will prevail, even while performing worldly 



Verse 16 

devl uvaca 

deva-deva jagannatha 
briihi me parame&vara 
darSanani katham deva 
bhavanti ca prthak prthak 


Devi asked, “O Lord of gods and Lord of universe, please 
tell me, O Parameshvara, what are the different darshanas 
(paths) for gaining experience?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Devi (Parvati) asks Shiva, who is both her teacher as well as 
her companion, about the different ways of obtaining experience 
or realization. She addresses her husband as Deva-deva (Lord 
of gods), Jagannatha (Lord of the universe), and Parameshvara 
(Supreme Lord). 

Deva comes from the root word div, which can mean ‘vast 
as space’ or ‘self-luminous.’ One, who experiences the formless 
stage and is always in the state of illumination, is Devendra, 
literally meaning ‘Lord of gods.’ 

Jagannatha is a combination of two words, jagat ‘that which 
changes continuously,’ meaning ‘the universe outside’ and nath 
is ‘Lord of all changes,’ meaning the ‘Changeless One.’ 
Jagannatha is therefore known as ‘Lord of the universe.’ 
Whatever is perceived or experienced is the mixture of the two 
— the changing and the changeless — both are nothing but the 
manifestation of ‘the One,’ Parameshvara or the Supreme Lord. 

In this verse, Parvati enquires about the different branches 



of darshana, i.e., philosophy. Darshana comes from the root 
verb drs which means ‘seeing,’ ‘viewing,’ and ‘experiencing.’ 
Thus, philosophy becomes the path of direct experience. 
Different levels of experience are gained as the embodied soul 
ascends on the spiritual path. In the following two verses, there 
is a description of the six schools of philosophical thought. 

Verse 17 

Uvara uvaca 

tridandica bhaved bhakto 
vedabhyasaratah sada 
prakrti vadaratah Saktah 
bauddhah Sunyativadinah 


Ishwara said, “There are tridandis who are bhaktas, those 
on the path of knowledge who study and practice the Vedas, 
shaktas who worship nature, and bauddhas who are in 
favour of shunyavada (nothingness).” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva speaks of four schools of 

1) The Path of Devotion, 

2) The Path of Knowledge, 

3) The Path of Action, 

4) The Path of the Nihilists. 

Every individual has three basic types of character, integrated 
into their being, in varying proportions: 



i) emotional heart, 

ii) rational head, 

iii) active hands. 

The Path of Devotion 

In this path emotion predominates, but when it becomes 
sublimated towards God or attaining a higher purpose in life, 
emotion becomes devotion. Lord Shiva describes a devotee on 
the Path of Devotion as a tridandi. The concept of tridandi is a 
technical one, since tri means ‘three’ and danda means ‘self- 
discipline,’ ‘punishment,’ ‘stick,’ or ‘staff.’ Tridandi, therefore, 
has several implications: 

i) A spiritual mendicant, 

ii) A person who has command over body, mind, and speech, 

iii) A renunciate monk who holds three long staffs tied 
together. The three staffs are made of bamboo, bilva or 
aegle marmelos, and asvatha or Indian peepal, 

iv) An evolved yogi who acquires control over the spine and 
the inner three channels: ida, pingala, and sushumna. The 
Path of Devotion requires discipline and self-control to 
enable the seeker to elevate emotion to the height of 

In a classical yogic text, the Dattatreya Prokta Yoga Rahasya 
(verse 22), the concept of tridandi is explained in the following 

vakdandah karmadandaSca manodandasca tritaya 
yasaite niyatadandah sa tridandi mahayatih 

“Disciplining speech, action, and mind is the path of self- 
discipline. One who has achieved this state is a great 



renunciate, and is called tridandi or holder of the three staffs.” 

The Path of Knowledge 

Lord Shiva describes a devotee who follows this path as 
v edabhyasaratah sada, ‘one who studies the scriptures 
integrating the teachings into daily life.’ The Vedas are a means 
for translating spiritual knowledge into abhyasa or ‘practice.’ 
Knowledge alone leads to an increase of ego, but when it is put 
into practice, by leading a life according to the scriptures, it 
brings forth the true spirit of humility. 

The Path of Action 

Lord Shiva refers to shaktas as worshippers of the Divine 
Mother, the source of energy, strength, or ability. This path 
consists of worship, rituals, and direct involvement regarding 
nature. It also includes charity; serving the sick and the poor. In 
this way a seeker becomes free from ego and pride. 

The Path of the Nihilists 

In this path, Lord Shiva alludes to the Buddhists, or the 
followers of Buddha, who believe in s hunya vada or that 
‘nothingness’ leads to the state of final emancipation or 

Verse 18 

atordham gamino yeva 
tattvajna api tadrsah 
sarvam nastlti carvakah 
jalpanti visayaSritah 




There are also some who are always trying to go beyond 
everything, known as tattvajnas (who discriminate between 
the seen and the unseen) and some others called charvakas, 

who believe that nothing exists except enjoyment of the 
senses and who practice jalpa, being engrossed in vishayas 
(material enjoyment). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

After describing the first four schools of philosophical 
thought, Lord Shiva elaborates on the remaining two branches: 

5) The Path of the Realized, 

6) The Path of Materialism. 

The Path of the Realized 

Every spiritual seeker strives to surpass all worldly limitations 
and go beyond the state of duality, full of conflict, bondage, and 
suffering in order to achieve final unity and experience liberation. A 
tattvajna (realized person) has experienced Truth and lives beyond 
all narrowness; having transcended the body, mind, ego, and 
intellect, completely saturated in a state of divine love. 

The Path of Materialism 

Lord Shiva speaks of a system of Philosophy enunciated by 
a sophistical philosopher known as Charvaka, believed to be 
the pupil of Brihaspati, who was known as the father of Atheism 
and Materialism. The primary meaning of Charvaka is ‘one who 
speaks beautifully.’ A Charvaka, in this context, is a person who 
appreciates the life of enjoyment and lives immersed in worldly 
pleasures offered by the material universe. 



Verse 19 

uma prcchati he deva 
pinda bramanda laksanam 
pahca bhuta katham deva 
gunah ke pahcavimSati 


Then Uma (Parvati) asked, “O Lord, what are the qualities 
of the body — microcosm and the universe — macrocosm? 
What are the panchabhutas (five elements) and the twenty 
five gunas (qualities)?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Uma is a synonym of Parvati, literally meaning ‘the Divine 
Mother who is always interested in the acquisition of knowledge.’ 
The dialogue between Shiva and Parvati is a constant theme within 
tantric texts. Here Parvati asks three fundamental questions: 

i) What is the nature of the body (microcosm) and the 
universe (macrocosm)? 

ii) What are the five elements? 

iii) What are the twenty-five gunas (qualities)? 

These enquiries are related to the physical body as well as the 
creation of the inner and the outer universe. In the same way that the 
body is the playground of the soul, the universe is the playground of 
the Absolute. In this context, pinda means ‘the body’ but literally, 
pinda means ‘a morsel of food offered at death rituals’ or ‘during the 
anniversary of a departed soul.’ Pinda can also mean a ‘fetus’ or 
‘embryo.’ Brahmanda indicates ‘the egg of Brahman,’ or the 
primordial state from which the universe springs. Lakshanam is ‘a 
distinctive trait,’ ‘characteristic,’ or ‘indication.’ Parvati asks Shiva for 
further elaboration of the inner and the outer universe; the microcosm 
and the macrocosm, made of the five elements, i.e., earth, water, fire, 
air, and space in conjunction with twenty-five qualities. 



Verse 20 

tivara uvaca 

asthi mamsa nakham caiva 
tvak lomani ca pancamam 
prthvi panca gunah pokta 
brahmajhanena bhasate 


Ishwara said, “Those who have knowledge of Brahman 
(spiritual knowledge) say, bones, flesh, nails, skin, and hair 
constitute the five gunas (qualities) of the earth element.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Knowledge is not only a subject matter for discussion and 
debate but it is, above all, the state of freedom from doubts, 
confusion, and conflict. Self-knowledge, or brahmajhana, is 
the highest form of knowledge, bringing complete freedom to 
the enlightened individual in spite of living in a body composed 
of elements, and in a world full of duality. Those who meditate 
and contemplate on the subtle truth of life get the experience of 
Reality and Truth. 

Answering the questions raised in the previous verse, Lord 
Shiva explains the five qualities of the earth element predominant 
in the body, which consist of bones, flesh, nails, skin, and hair. 

Asthi literally means ‘bone,’ metaphorically a means 
‘negation’ and sthi means ‘sustenance,’ i.e., the skeleton is the 
substructure of the body but it has no value without the presence 
of the soul. While the bones are an essential component, they 
are still impermanent. 

Mamsa literally means ‘flesh’ but the metaphorical 
interpretation recalls the presence of divinity ( ma-amsa ), since 
all that is manifested is none but God. 



Nakha means ‘nails,’ but in allegorical terms na is ‘not’ and 
kha is ‘vast’ or ‘formless,’ so nakha is ‘that which sets a limit.’ 

Tvak is ‘skin,’ but if the word is taken apart, tu means ‘indeed’ 
and aka means ‘negative quality,’ so tu + aka metaphorically 
indicates a place where negative qualities reside. The skin, 
overloaded with sensory perception and the constant lure for 
pleasure, becomes a great obstacle on the road to spiritual 

Loma literally means ‘hair.’ The human body is covered with 
hair except for the palms and the lower part of the feet. Hair, 
symbolically, represents the last state of creation — la + om; la is 
derived from laya or ‘cessation’ and om means ‘the state of creation.’ 

Verse 21 

Sukra Bonita majja ca 
mala muram ca pahcamam 
apam pahca gunah prokta 
brahma jhanena bhasate 


Those who have the knowledge of Brahman say, semen, 
blood, marrow, stool, and urine are the five gunas of water. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva elaborates on the five qualities of 
the water element. Approximately three-fourths of the earth is 
composed of water and the same proportion applies to the human 
body. When the water element is associated with the gross body, 
five visible qualities are manifested: semen, blood, marrow, 
stool, and urine. 



Sukra stands for ‘purity’ and ‘clarity’ but in its role as ‘semen’ 
it is also interpreted as ‘strength’ and ‘vitality.’ Just as water 
cleanses and purifies the body, the semen, indispensable 
fertilizer, is an active principle in maintaining God’s creation. 

Shonita literally means ‘blood’ but symbolically it signifies 
‘activity,’ which is a rajasic quality. Through an efficient 
circulatory system, a human being is able to accomplish 
numerous physical and mental activities; blood is not only 
associated with the heart or the brain but is also essential in the 
digestive process. 

Majja, simply means ‘marrow.’ Just as the marrow is the 
innermost part of the bone, from which everything is derived, majja 
is the essence of divinity from which everything is manifested; 
mat + ja —‘from Me everything is bom.’ 

Mala could mean ‘excreta’ or ‘impurity,’ but it also refers to 
maya or ‘delusion.’ Literally, ma means ‘mind’ and la means 
‘destruction.’ The essential quality of the water element is the 
cleansing of all impurities. 

Mutra is ‘urine,’ but metaphorically refers to the divine experience 
through pleasurable contemplation. 

Verse 22 

nidra ksudha trsna caiva 
klantih alasya pahcakam 
tejah pancagunah prokta 
brahma jhanena bhasate 


Knowers of Brahman say, sleep, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and 
idleness are the five gunas or qualities of the fire element. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva explains the five qualities of the fire 
element: sleep, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and laziness. Fire is the third 
element. The sun is the source of fire, and yet paradoxically, in the 
epicenter of the earth there is molten lava, symbolizing fire. Balance 
between the inner and outer fire brings about the manifestation 
of life, but if an imbalance exists, there are disastrous 


means ‘sleep,’ but symbolically it represents 
forgetfulness of the breath (God-consciousness), 
due to extreme activities. 


is ‘hunger,’ but allegorically, it designates desire 
for spiritual wisdom. 


means ‘thirst,’ interpreted as thirst for 


stands for ‘fatigue,’ metaphorically it means 


is ‘laziness’ or lack of interest in both the material 
and spiritual worlds. The fire element, in this 
context, becomes a weak, flickering flame. 

Verse 23 

dharanam calanam ksepam 
samkocam prasaranam tatha 
vayoh pancagunah prokta 
brahma jhanena bhasate 


Knowers of Brahman say, to hold, to move, to throw, to 



contract, and to expand are the five gunas or qualities of 
the air element. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Air is essential in the external world to all living things just 
as prana (the breath) is the vital energy in the inner world. Air is 
one of the subtlest elements, comprising the following five 
qualities: ‘to hold,’ ‘to move,’ ‘to throw,’ ‘to contract,’ and ‘to 

Dharana is ‘to hold’ or ‘to support.’ Air, water, and 
temperature are indispensable elements but out of the three, air 
is the most vital aspect of life. The breath is the source of life. 
When breath stops, life itself comes to a halt. In spiritual life, 
through rhythmic breathing, a devotee can behold Truth. 

Chalanam literally means ‘to move.’ The breath activates the 
body, in the same way that the wind blows. Breath sets the body 
in motion; likewise spiritual life can only be possible through 

Kshepam means ‘to throw’ or ‘to project.’ Just as a hurricane can 
uproot trees and damage houses; a strong breath, full of anger or 
excessive emotion can reap havoc in life. Every angry word coming 
out of the mouth becomes like a weapon, since we use air to speak. 
Every word has the potential to maintain or destroy peaceful harmony. 

Samkocha means ‘contraction,’ ‘withdrawal,’ or ‘shyness.’ 
Contraction becomes possible due to the intake of air, similarly 
a devotee can withdraw all senses from restlessness and 
experience calmness through breath-control. 

Prasarana is the principle of ‘expansion.’ Air expands with 
an increase of temperature. In the same way, life expands when 
it is filled with the warmth of love and self-reliance brought on 
by an increase of knowledge. 



Verse 24 

kamam krodham tatha moham 
lajja lobham ca pancamam 
nabhau pahcagunah prokta 
brahma jhanena bhasate 


According to Brahmajnana, kama (desire), krodha (anger), 
moha (delusion), lajja (indolence), and lobha (greed) are the 
five gunas of the ether element. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva explains the five qualities of the 
ether element: kama (desire), krodha (anger), moha (delusion), 
lajja (indolence), and lobha (greed). These are the inner vices 
innate to most human beings. Although they manifest in the 
lower centers of the spine, their place of origin stems from the 
heart, which is the fountainhead of all emotions. 

Kama literally stands for ‘lust,’ ‘wish,’ ‘desire,’ ‘affection,’ 
and ‘love for sensual enjoyment.’ Metaphorically, ka+a means 
‘happiness’ and ama means ‘unripe.’ Unripe or immature 
happiness is born out of sensual pleasure and subsequently 
brings pain, unhappiness, emptiness, and even disease. 

Krodha is ‘anger’ or ‘wrath.’ Metaphorically, k is ‘happiness’ 
and rodha means ‘to stop’ or ‘to obstruct.’ Krodha is a state that 
obstructs true happiness, since anger fills life with pain and misery. 

Moha means Toss of consciousness,’ ‘perplexity,’ ‘delusion,’ 
‘attachment.’ It is a delusive state that prevents a person from 
discerning Truth. 

Lajja can be interpreted as ‘shyness,’ ‘indolence’ or ‘laziness.’ 



A slothful person is intrinsically inactive and lacks the necessary 
will-power or discipline to make any headway in both the 
material and spiritual worlds. 

Lobha means ‘covetousness,’ ‘avarice,’ and ‘greed.’ This state 
of confusion brings on a permanent feeling of dissatisfaction. 

Verse 25 

akasat jayate vayuh 
vayoh utpadyate ravih 
raverutpadyate toyam 
toyat utpadyate mahi 


Vayu (air) is bom of akasha (sky), from the air, ravi (fire) 
is born, from the fire, toya (water) is born, and from the 
water, mahi (earth) is bom. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse refers to the process of creation from the formless 
state of ether (space) to the solid state of earth. In the Taittiriya 
Upanishad (2:1:3), a similar description is given, 

tasmad va etasmad atmana akafah sambhutah 
akafad vayuh, vayor agnih, agner apah, adbhyoh prthivi 

“From this Self, verily arose ether, from ether air, from air fire, 
from fire water, from water earth, and so on.” 

The following chart correlates a particular element and its 
corresponding sense organ, illustrating the connection between 
the inner and outer universe. 

















touch and sound 
sight, touch, sound 

taste, sight, touch, 
and sound 

ear and speech 
skin and hands 
eyes and feet 

tongue and 

nose and anus 

Life’s energy, charged with the power of God, descends from 
the ajna chakra (soul) to the vishuddha chakra (ether), and from 
there to the anahata chakra (air), then to the manipura chakra 
(fire), further down to the svadhisthana chakra (water), and 
ultimately to the muladhara chakra (earth). 

Verse 26 

mahi viliyate toye 
toyam viliyate ravau 
ravirviliyate vayau 
vayurviliyate tu khe 


Earth dissolves into water, water into fire, fire merges into 
air and air into ether/sky. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

At this stage, Lord Shiva speaks of the process of dissolution, 
which is the reverse of the process of creation. Metaphorically, a 
spiritual aspirant should lift consciousness from the muladhara 
chakra to the ajna chakra and ultimately, to the sahasrara 
chakra or the crown of the head. The five chakras in the spine 
represent the five tattvas — principles or elements. The sahasrara 
chakra is beyond tattva and is referred to as tattvatita. 



Verse 27 

pancatattvat bhavet srstih 
tattvat tattve villyate 
pancatattvat paramtattvam 
tatvatita nirafijanam 


Creation manifested (Itself) from the above five elements. 

The tattvas merge into one another and above the five 
tattvas is paramtattva (Supreme Principle); niranjana (the 
Formless) is beyond the tattvas. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Any living creature or inanimate object has a physical body 
and is made of the five elements. The process of quintiplication 
is equivalent to the process of transformation from a subtler 
essence to a gross state. 

Space = l/2space +l/8' h air +l/8 ,h fire +l/8' h water +l/8 ,h earth 
Air = l/2air +1/8"' space +l/8 lh fire +l/8 ,h water + l/8‘ h earth 

Fire = l/2fire +l/8 ,h space +l/8 ,h air +l/8 ,h water + l/8 ,h earth 

Water = l/2water +l/8' h space +l/8' h air +l/8 lh fire + l/8' h earth 

Earth = l/2earth +l/8 ,h space +l/8 ,h air +l/8 ,h fire +l/8 lh water 

Beyond these five tattvas (principles or elements) is the 
Supreme Principle, which is none but the Formless One, known 
as Brahman. 

“When a seer sees the Creator of golden colour, the Lord, the 
source of Brahma, one becomes the knower, free from strain, 
shaking off good and evil and attaining the Supreme State.” 

Mundaka Upanishad (3:1:3) 



Verse 28 

sparSanam rasanam caiva 
ghranam caksuSca Sravanam 
pancendriyam idam tattvam 
manah sadhanyam Indriyam 


Touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing are the five indriyas 
(organs of perception), which are the instruments of the 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, the five elements are correlated with the sense 


























The senses are the instruments of the mind, but the mind 
remains the controlling factor. In the Katha Upanishad (1:3:4), 
there is a description that the soul experiences the world, with 
the help of the mind and the senses. A well-balanced life requires 
a healthy mind, a discriminative intellect, and a balanced use of 
the five sense organs. The devas (presiding deities) are in 
attendance at each one of the sense organs ( indriya ). The 
presiding deity is devaraja (supreme deva), otherwise known 
as Indra (the ruler), who controls, guides, and directs the senses. 



Verse 29 

bramhanda laksanam sarvam 
dehamadhye vyavasthltam 
sakarafca vina&yati 
nirakaram na natyati 


All the qualities of Brahmanda (macrocosm) are also 
present in the body. The form is perishable while what is 
formless does not perish. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Microcosm and macrocosm are one; just as the body and the 
universe are essentially one. The entire universe with its stars, planets, 
solar system(s), atmosphere, living beings, rivers, mountains, 
stones, and grains of sand is nothing but the sum total of the 
five elements: space, air, fire, water, and soil, imbued in an all- 
pervasive cosmic consciousness. The human body, or 
microcosm, is also composed of the same five elements. 

One God who is all-pervading, remains in every living being as 
the embodied soul, atman. The universe is nothing but God alone 
and every individual is nothing but Brahman, the Formless Spirit. 
Every human body is a microcosm, a little universe. Both the 
universe, as well as the individual, share the same characteristics: 
sakara (form) and nirakara (formless). Each living being has a 
body with a form and a soul, which is formless. In the same way, 
the universe in its vastness has a complete form, while it remains 
permeated by the Cosmic Being, Brahman, or the Formless God. 

A seeker, through sincere spiritual practice, can realize the 
Absolute and feel complete oneness with creation. This is the 
state of unity. Every yogi and sincere meditator has experienced 
Truth by introverting the senses and going within. 




Microcosm (Individual) 

Body and Soul 

Macrocosm (Universe) 

Physical Existence (Form) 
and God (Formless) 


Is finite 

Is bom and must die 

Undergoes six modifications 

Is able to experience through the 
five senses 


Is infinite 

Is beyond birth and death 

Is beyond modification 
Is transcendental 

Is composed of the five elements Is beyond the five elements 

To understand form and formless, an appropriate analogy is 
of the gold in an ornament. Gold as such is formless, but under 
an able goldsmith it can assume many forms. The new forms 
are only a superimposition on the gold. When the form is removed 
and the ornament or coin is melted down, the gold goes back to 
its original state, becoming pure gold once again. In a similar 
manner, the body and the soul, as well as the universe and the 
Absolute, can be experienced and realized. 

In the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (6:2 and 4) it is said, 

“He, by whom this whole world is always enveloped, the 
Knower, the author of time, the possessor of qualities and all 
knowledge. Controlled by Him, this work of creation unfolds 
itself; that which is regarded as earth, water, fire, air, and ether. 

Who, having begun with undertakings associated with the 
(three) qualities, distributes all existence. In the absence of 
these qualities, there is destruction of the work that has been 
done and in the destruction of the work, He continues.” 



Verse 30 

nirakaram mano yasya 
nirakara samo bhavet 
tasmat sarva prayatnena 
sakaram tu parityajet 


One whose mind is fixed on the Formless becomes 
formless. Therefore through every effort, go beyond form. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva underlines the importance of 
experience, through the instrument of the mind. A restless mind 
encounters movement, turbulence, and instability, within a 
constantly changing universe. A calm and tranquil mind is able 
to experience the changeless, immortal soul seated at the crown 
of the head ( sahasrara ). As is the mind, so is the person, and 
ultimately the experience. 

Lord Shiva teaches that while performing all sincere 
endeavours, a devotee should try to go beyond form into 
formlessness, and thus reach union with the Absolute. 

A great poet-philosopher and spiritual master of India, Swami 
Madhusudana Saraswati sang, 

hari reva jagat jagadeko hari 
harito jagato nahi bhinnatanu 
iti yasya mad paramatma rati 
sa naro bhava sagara nistarad 

“Hari alone is the universe and the universe alone is Hari; 
there is no difference between the universe and Hari. One 



who keeps the mind in such a state, with deep love for God, 
indeed crosses the ocean of the world.” 

Verse 31 

devi uvaca 
adinatha mayi bruhi 
saptadhatuh katham bhavet 
atma caivantaratma ca 
paramatma katham bhavet 


Devi asked, “O Adinatha (First Guru) please tell me what 
are the saptadhatus (seven ingredients or essences)? What 
is atma (soul)? What is antaratma (inner soul)? What is 
paramatma (Supreme Soul)?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Parvati or the Divine Mother has the following 

i) What is meant by saptadhatu? 

ii) What is atma? 

iii) What is antaratma ? 

iv) What is paramatmal 

Adinatha means ‘First Guru.’ Adi symbolizes in the beginning; 
the time before creation. The implicit message is that Lord Shiva 
was there from the beginning; he is therefore omniscient and 
omnipotent, possessing direct knowledge of everything. 



Verse 32 

iSvara uvaca 
sukra Bonita majja ca 
medo mams am ca pahcamam 
asthi tvak caiva saptaite 
Sarlresu vyavasthitah 


Ishwara said, “In the body the saptadhatus (seven 
constituents) are present, which are: semen, blood, marrow, 
fat, flesh, bones, and skin.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva enumerates the saptadhatus or seven 
constituents: sukra (semen), sonita (blood), majja (marrow), 
meda (fat), mamsa (flesh), asthi (bone), and tvak (skin). In 
Ayurveda and other yogic scriptures, rasa (plasma /fluid) is 
mentioned instead of the skin. 

The three-fold activities of the seven dhatus are: 


Rasa cough Maintenance of Plasma Supports kidney and 


Rakta bil e (pitta) Colour pigment Helps to nourish the 


Mamsa ear-wax Maintains the skin Nourishes fat 

Meda sweat Nourishes fat Helps the bone 

Asthi nail, hair Nourishes the bone Helps the marrow 

Majja tear Nourishes marrow Semen 

Sukra no impurity Nourishes semen Ojah 

(human magnetism) 

This table explains the triple functions of the seven elementary 
substances in the body. Among the seven dhatus, the first six 
are feminine and the seventh is the masculine aspect. 



Verse 33 

sarlram caivam atmanam 
antaratma manobhavet 
paramatmam bhavet Sunyam 
mano yatra viliyate 


The soul in the body is atma, the mind is called antaratma, 
and paramatma is the formless state where mind is dissolved. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In addition to the explanation in Verse 31, the body is 
considered as the atma, the mind as the antaratma, and the state 
of formlessness as paramatma, where the mind becomes 
completely dissolved. But to accept the body as the Self or the 
soul seems inappropriate. The individual is not considered the 
soul but the embodied soul. In Sanskrit, jiva is the term used to 
refer to an embodied or individual soul. 

Many persons take care of the external needs of the body, 
but only a very few really take care of the mind. The body and 
the mind both need exceptional care in order to cultivate a healthy 
lifestyle and true spirituality. In reality, atma is defined as atate 
vyapnoti iti: “That which is formless and immortal, with the 
attribute of pure consciousness and bliss.” Atma or the individual 
soul and paramatma or the Supreme Soul (Brahman) are 
essentially one; like the waves in the ocean. To experience this 
state of absolute unity, the spiritual seeker needs the help of an 
inner instrument, the mind, called antaratma or literally ‘the 
inner Self.’ Mind is like a tool, which helps a person to evolve, 
but once the target is reached, it ceases to be useful and should 
dissolve. The experience of Truth is beyond the senses and the 



Verse 34 

raktadhatu bhavet mata 
fukradhatu bhavet pita 
funyadhatu bhavet prano 
garbhe pihdam prajayate 


Taking the raktadhatu (element of blood) from the mother, 
the shukradhatu (element of semen) from the father, and 
the shunyadhatu (vacuum) from the prana (vital air), the 
fetus forms in the womb. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 
This verse has various interpretations: 

1) Traditionally, a woman’s fertility is connected to the time of 
menstruation (changes in the nature of blood through the process 
of ovulation). The ovum of the mother and the sperm of the 
father unite in the space of the uterus to bring forth new life in 
the fetus or embryo, which is known as pinda in Sanskrit. This 
is the new abode for the itinerant soul. 

2) Rakta means ‘red,’ ‘crimson,’ ‘coloured,’ ‘attached to love,’ 
or ‘blood.’ 

Shukra means ‘white,’ ‘bright,’ ‘radiant,’ ‘pure,’ ‘fire,’ or ‘semen.’ 
Shunya means ‘empty,’ ‘void,’ ‘zero,’ ‘space,’ ‘atmosphere,’ or 
‘Brahman.’ All three are different stages of experience during 

3) Rakta is related to the rajasic quality of the colour red. 
Shukra is related to the sattvic quality of the colour white. 
Shunya is related to the tamasic quality of the colour black. 
These qualities together represent nature. The union of prakriti 
(nature) and Purusha (Shiva or the indwelling Spirit) is the cause 



of all creation. 

4) Raktadhatu stands for activity. 

Shukradhatu is translated as ‘purity,’ which is nothing but the 

Shunyadhatu means life-energy. 

The combination of these three elements can be interpreted to 
mean that purity or the soul, with the help of prana, manifests 
activity in life. 

Verse 35 

devl uvaca 

katham utpadyate vaca 
katham vaca viliyate 
vakyasya nirnayam bruhi 
pa&yam-jhanam udahara 


Devi asked, “How is speech born and where does it 
dissolve? Please elaborate on the principle of speech 
through which knowledge is gained.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Speech is the most powerful means of communication. In 
the Upanishads it is said, vak vai agni, vak vai brahman: “Talk 
is like fire, talk is also God.” 

In this verse, the Divine Mother asks about the origin and 
dissolution of speech, and enquires how speech can ignite 



Verse 36 

iSvara uvaca 
avyaktat jayate pranah 
pranat utpadyate manah 
manasotpadyate vaco 
mano vaca villyate 


Ishwara said, “From avyakta (the un-manifest), prana 
(vital air) is born, which gives birth to mana (the mind), 
which in turn generates speech, expressed through vakya 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

The origin of speech has four steps: avyakta (the un-manifest), 
prana (vital air), mana (the mind), and vakya (words). 

In both Yoga and Tantra, there are four stages of speech: 
para, pasyanti, madhyama, and vaikhari. The word, expressed 
with sound, is the last stage. 





















Para is the imperishable inner light from where all thoughts 
originate. Pashyanti is the stage before communication when 
there is no distinction of sound as such; it resides in the vital 
breath. At this point, thoughts are perceived within. Vaikhari is 
manifested by the activity of the speech organ or the expression 



of sound. Madhyama remains present in buddhi (intellectual 
understanding), as it starts to make a distinction in the nature of 
sound but still dwells in the sphere of inner communication. It 
follows that the dissolution of speech takes place in the reverse 

Lord Shiva emphasizes that from avyakta or the un-manifest, 
the vibration of prana or vital breath is generated, which becomes 
the source of the mind and ultimately of the thought process, which 
is expressed in words. 

Verse 37 

devi uvaca 

kasmin sthane vaset suryah 
kasmin sthane vaset SaSih 
kasmin sthane vaset vayuh 
kasmin sthane vaset manah 


Devi asked, “Where is the abode of the sun, and where does 
the moon reside? Where does the vital air live, and what is 
the place of the mind?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The Divine Mother enquires about the place of residence of 
surya or the sun, sashi or the moon, vayu or vital air, and mana 
or the mind. 

Surya or the sun, is defined as sarathi or akasha — ‘one who 
roams in space,’ i.e., the experience of light in the inner sky. 

yadva subati karmani lokam prerayati surya: “One who is 
the source of life and activities and motivates all living beings 
towards action is surya." 



The sun is the presiding deity of the intellect and wisdom. 
Spiritual seekers chant the Gayatri Mantra to invoke spiritual 
wisdom within. 

Sashi is one of the names given to the moon. There is a 
definition in Sanskrit that says, saha asti anya iti — the moon is 
the ‘Lord of the mind.’ 

It is only through the mind and the intellect that a person can 
progress on the road to Self-evolution. 

Vayu is the life breath or vital air. Yogis have identified fifty 
different types of breath. 

Mana here represents the mind; life becomes the playground 
of the mind. 

Verse 38 

rtvara uvaca 
talu mule sthitah candro 
nabhi mule divakarah 
suryargre vasate vayuh 
candragre vasate manah 


Ishwara said, “The moon ( chandra ) is present at the base of 
the palate, and the sun ( surya ) is at the base of the navel. 
Above the sun is the vital air (vayu) and above the moon 
(chandra), is the mind.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse. Lord Shiva answers the questions about the 
location of surya, chandra (or sashi), vayu and mana, in a 
technical manner. 



Nabhi mule divakara — the sun or surya is at the root of the 
navel ( manipura chakra). Divakara can be broken into two 
words, diva here means ‘in the day,’ kara is ‘rays’ or ‘hands.’ 
The metaphorical interpretation is ‘that which brings all activities 
and life.’ Above the place of the sun is the seat of vayu/prana or 
the vital air ( anahata chakra). 

Talumule sthito chandra — the moon or chandra resides at 
the root of the palate or uvula, near the vishuddha chakra. 
Chandra means ‘glittering,’ ‘lovely.’ A seeker, conscious of the 
mind, takes good care of it, makes it beautiful. 

Above the moon is the place of the mind ( mana) in the ajna 
chakra. When a yogi or a tantric practices khechari mudra, by 
bringing the tongue above the uvula, one attains all the qualities 
of the moon and the sun, by displaying control over the breath 
and the mind. 

Mana (the mind) 
Chandra (the moon) 

Vayu (vital air) 
Surya (sun) 

Ajna chakra (soul center) 

Below Ajna chakra up to Vishuddha 
chakra (cervical center) 

Anahata chakra (dorsal center) 
Manipura chakra (lumbar center) 

Verse 39 

sutyagre vasate cittah 
candragre jivitam priye 
etad yuktam mahadevi 
guruvakyena labhyate 


O Dear Parvati, chitta (memory) resides above surya (the 
sun) and the life principle is above chandra (the moon). All 



these things are to be learned from the teachings of the 
guru (the divine master). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Since the sun is the Lord of the intellect, it is also the source 
of memory ( chitta). The faculty of memory is the retentive 
, quality, which adds a special brilliance to the mind. To achieve 
this, inner attention must be fixed on the sun. 

Chandragre jivitam — the moon is the source of rasa or ‘the 
balancing and nourishing fluid within plants and animals.’ In 
human beings, the life principle remains inside the brain, i. e., 
between the ajna chakra, and the sahasrara chakra or the crown 
of the head. 

Lord Shiva emphasizes that all spiritual practices, 
concentration, and meditation, should be practiced under the 
instructions, guidance, and supervision of a qualified guru, but 
God remains the Supreme Master. 

Verse 40 

devl uvaca 

kasmin sthane vaset Saktih 
kaSmin sthane vaset Sivah 
kasmin sthane vaset kalo 
jara kena prajayate 


Devi asked, “Which is the abode of shakti (divine energy), 
in which place does Shiva reside, which is the seat of kala 
(time/death), and where does jara (old age) come from?” 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, the Divine Mother asks about shakti, Shiva, 
kala, and jara. Shakti is derived from the root verb shak, which 
means ‘to be able to’ or ‘capable of.’ So shakti or energy is 
translated as ‘ability’ or ‘strength.’ Strength is regarded with 
respect, but it is not limited to physical strength since it also 
encompasses mental, intellectual, and spiritual energy. 

Shiva is shava (dead body) + i (the source of life and energy). 
Shiva is equivalent to the Soul, the source of all energy, life, 
and activities. 

Kala is the ‘time principle,’ but it is also known as ‘death.’ 
Everything that is bom must one day die. Kala is the flow of 
energy that is the cause of all projection and dissolution. 

Jara comes from the verb jar, which means ‘to become old.’ 
Symbolically, jara is to grow and become mature, allowing 
weakness and emotion to die while becoming stronger through 
love and understanding. 

Verse 41 

Uvara uvaca 
patale vasate Saktih 
brahmande vasate Sivah 
antarlkse vaset kalo 
jara tena prajayate 


Ishwara said, “Shakti (divine energy) resides in patala (the 
nether region) and Shiva resides in Brahmanda (the 
universe). Kala is in anthariksha (the inner sky), from 
where jara (old age) is born.” 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva points out the location of shakti, 
Shiva, kala, and jar a. 

The human body can be divided into three parts using the 
same terms for the universe: 

patala (the lower sphere of creation), 

martya (the earthly plane), 

svarga (the heavenly place). 

The lower region, known as patala, is found from the hips 
downwards (there are seven talas or lower regions). From the 
hips upwards is the upper part with the seven lokas or worlds, 
which sub-divide into earthly and heavenly planes. 




Sahasrara (crown of the head) 


Heavenly bliss 

Ajna (third eye) 



Vishuddha (cervix) 



Anahata (dorsal) 




Manipura (lumbar) 



Svadhisthana (sacral) 



Muladhara (coccyx) 




















Blindness to one’s 
own actions 

Sole of the feet 


Destructive tendency/ 



The Upanishads say, padayoh shaktih : “Strength resides in the 
feet.” The feet symbolize movement; so a spiritual seeker is to 
proceed energetically forward. Patala is found at the sole of the 
feet, in the lowest of the seven planes of talas, it is from this region 
that shakti or energy rises to the higher planes. In reflexology, the 
entire human system is projected in the sole of the feet. 

As has been described earlier in this text, the body’s axis has 
polarity: while the sahasrara stands for the North Pole; the feet 
represent the South Pole. Therefore, the feet reflect energy the 
same way as the brain. 

Shri Shankaracharya, in his prayer to Lord Shiva “Shiva 
Manasa Puja,” exemplifies each human body as the temple of 

atma tvam girija matih sahacarah pranah Harira griha ... 

“O Lord Shiva, you are the Soul in me, my mind is Parvati 

and verily this body is your home, the temple. Every living 

being is described as Brahmanda or the residing place of 
Brahman. Shiva is inside every individual.” 

The term antariksha means ‘space,’ and refers to the space 
outside and inside the human body. Literally, antariksha is the 
intermediate region between heaven and earth. Metaphorically, 
in the human body heaven is the place from the ajna chakra to 
the sahasrara, while the earthly plane refers to the spine and 
the five lower chakras. Kala resides in the antariksha, close to 
the soul center, near the medulla oblongata. Kala (death) keeps 
measure of time. When time runs out, death comes. 

Jara, or old age, is the product of deteriorated breath. Jara is 
also the name of a mythological demoness, who attempts to 
devour everyone. 

One of the benefits of mahamudra (a yogic exercise) is 
described as, jara mrityur vinaSanam: “The practice of 



mahamudra makes one free from the clutches of kala (death) 
and jara (old age).” 

Verse 42 

devl uvaca 

ahara kahksate ko sau 
bhufijate pivate katham 
jagrat svapna susuptau ca 
ko va sau pratibuddhati 


Devi asked, “Who is the one who needs food, how does one 

eat and drink, who is aware of the wakeful, dream, and 
deep sleep states?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The Divine Mother enquires about the intake of food and 
nourishment for the body and the three stages of awareness of 
the spirit. 

The word ahara derives from — a-hriyate-iti — meaning 
‘what one takes in’ or ‘consumes.’ Ahara is therefore translated 
as ‘food.’ A human being consumes food for nourishment, but 
thoughts and ideas are also considered food for the mind. One 
experiences the world through the five senses of perception: 
sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Breath can also fit into the 
category of food, since we need to take in oxygen to survive. 
Ahara, interpreted in a broad sense, means that food is necessary 
for the body, the senses, and the mind. 

Every day an individual passes through the three stages: 



jagrata (the wakeful state); svapna (the dream state); and sushupti 
(the state of deep sleep). 

Jagrata (the wakeful state) — all three bodies, gross, astral, 
• and causal are active and awake. 

Svapna (the dream state) — the gross body is at rest, but 
the astral and causal bodies are active. 

Sushupti (the deep sleep state) — in this state of ignorance 
only the causal body is active, the gross and astral 
bodies are asleep. 

Verse 43 

Uvara uvaca 
aharam kahksate prano 
bhunjate ‘pi hutaSanah 
jagrat svapna susuptau ca 
vayuSca pratibuddhati 


Ishwara said, “Prana (the life force) needs food and eats 
and drinks through hutasana (the digestive fire). Vayu (the 

breath) is aware of the wakeful, dream, and deep sleep 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse Lord Shiva further elaborates on the question 
raised by Parvati: 

Prani is a ‘living being’ — pranam asti yasya sah — means 
‘one who has the life-energy is a living entity.’ Thus, prani 
encompasses humans, animals, and plants. Food, in some form. 



is essential to all living beings, only a dead entity, one without 
prana (the life-force) feels no hunger. 

Hutasana is a name used for ‘fire’ consisting of two parts — 
huta and asana, i.e., ‘the cry for food.’ Hutasana is therefore a 
‘fire that creates a desire for food.’ In the Gita (15:14), vaisvanara 
‘the digestive fire’ is mentioned; this gastric fire becomes active 
due to the pranic energy functioning in the navel center. 

Lord Shiva explains that at every stage of existence; breath 
is a necessity. Whether in the wakeful, dream, or deep sleep 
states, breath is the active and motivating force in every living 

Verse 44 

devl uvaca 
ko va karoti karmani 
ko va lipyati patakaih 
ko va karoti pcipani 
ko va papaih. pramucyate 


Devi asked, “Who is doing the action, who is committing 
mistakes, who is causing sinful acts and how are they 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This question has elementary as well as subtle components. 
In this verse, the Divine Mother asks about karma, good and 
bad; pataka, papa, as well as how to be freed from papa. 

Karma literally means ‘action,’ but in the context of the Hindu 
system karma refers to volitional activities, — physical, vocal, 



and mental — in words, deeds, and thoughts. The science of 
Physics maintains that each action has a potential result, so does 
karma. Each karma has an inevitable result. One needs to be 
watchful of one’s action. Some consequences are immediate, 
others remain dormant and manifest in future lives. 

Pataka is derived from the word patana, which means 
‘downfall’; pataka is therefore ‘that action which brings downfall 
and disgrace to a person.’ Literally, it is translated as ‘a mistake’ 
but sometimes the word is used to refer to something stronger, 
like ‘sin.’ In the Manu Smruti (11:54) it is said, 

brahmahatya surapanam 
steyam gurvanganagamah 
mahanti patakanyahuh 
samsargagcapi taia saha 

“To kill the wise, to drink alcohol, to steal, to enjoy or cohabit 
with the guru’s wife, are (all) considered heinous activities. 
Even association with people who commit these (acts) is as 
deplorable as pataka .” 

Papa means ‘sin.’ A mistake is committed out of ignorance, 
but if a mistake is repeated again and again, it becomes a sin. In 
essence, to forget the truth of life is a catalyst for mistakes, misery, 
and sin. 

Verse 45 

is vara uvaca 
manah karoti papani 
mano lipyate patakaih 
manaSca tanmaya bhutva 
na punyaih na ca patakaih 




Ishwara said, “Mind commits mistakes and causes sinful 
acts. When the mind is in God-consciousness, it is free from 
virtue and vice.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Lord Shiva replies to all queries with one answer, “It is the 
mind.” The mind is the cause of all activities, good or bad. 

In the Amritabindu Upanishad (mantra 2) it is said, 

mana eva manusyanam 
karanam bandha moksayoh 
bandhaya visayasaktam 
muktam nirvisayam smrtam 

“Mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of 

liberation. A mind engrossed in the material world is in 
bondage and a detached mind is in the state of liberation.” 

Every human being has three faculties: physical (body), 
psychological (mind), and spiritual (soul). The body dies but 
the soul remains ever pure. The mind can be dirty or clean; 
while a debased mind brings misery, a pure mind brings peace. 
All spiritual practices and spiritual disciplines are geared to obtain 
inner purity, calmness of the mind, and ultimately, liberation. 
When the mind is immersed in the state of divinity, it is beyond 
virtue and vice. In the state of liberation the mental components 
like virtue and vice become irrelevant. The word tanmaya is 
made up of tat or ‘that’ and maya, which here means ‘saturation’ 
or ‘absorption,’ i. e., ‘a mind saturated in divine love.’ Once the 
mind has reached this elevated state, it can only perceive 



Verse 46 

devl uvdca 
jiva kena prakarena 
Siva bhavati kasya ca 
karyasya kdranam bruhi 
katham kim ca prasadhanam 


Devi asked, “How does jiva (the individual soul) become Shiva 
(the universal Soul)? Please explain what is the cause of 
action, which is the effect, and how is it accomplished?” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Parvati asks about karya (action), karana (cause), and the means 
to become realized. The very essence of spiritual life is the journey 
of jiva to be Shiva — the individual’s absortion into the Divine. 
This is the goal of every individual’s life. 

Verse 47 

iSvara uvdca 

bhranti baddho bhavet jivah 
bhrantirmuktah sadaSivah 
karyah hi kdranam tvam ca 
purna-bodha viSisyate 


Ishwara said, “Jiva is bound by delusion, and when free from 
delusion he becomes Sadashiva. Karya (effect) and karanam 
(cause), is you. This is realized through complete awareness. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Ignorance of the true nature of one’s Self —‘Who am I?’ — 
is the cause of suffering. Freeing oneself from this ignorance 
also shatters the egocentric separateness from the Divine. 

Ignorance has a two-fold effect: 

avarana shakti veiling power, 

vikshepa shakti projecting power. 

Ignorance covers up Truth, projecting a completely distorted 
idea of reality. To explain the effect of ignorance or nescience, 
Vedic scholars give the example of a rope in the darkness appearing 
as a snake. The rope appears to be a non-existent snake, creating 
fear in the individual’s mind. In this situation, not to see the rope is 
the veiling power of ignorance, but to see the snake in the rope is 
the effect of the projecting power of ignorance. With the light of 
inner wisdom fear of the snake vanishes, and the rope is seen for 
what it really is. When ignorance, the cause, is eliminated one 
becomes free from individual egoistic awareness. Knowledge is 
the source of all cause and effect. When one is established in Self- 
knowledge, one realizes that all actions and causes are nothing but 
God. This is known as complete awareness. ‘I am the body’ fades 
and the liberated seeker realizes, ‘I am Shiva, Shivo’ham.’ 

Verse 48 

mano ‘nyatra Sivo ‘nyatra 
.iaktiranyatra marutah 


(For a person steeped in ignorance) Mind is not here, God 
(Shiva) is elsewhere, so also is shakti as well as marata 




Metaphorical Interpretation 

Those whose mind and breath are agitated, and who perceive 
Shiva as separate from Shakti, are submerged in a state of 
ignorance. Restlessness is the cause of misery. When breath is 
unstable, the mind is likewise excitable and changeable and this 
reflects in all activities. A diversified and mutable mind cannot 
experience the state of Truth. A wavering and unsteady person 
is easily distracted; nothing is ever accomplished without 
concentration or singleness of purpose. In an obscure and 
ambiguous state, human beings always divide and differentiate, 
finding separateness in Shiva and Shakti. Confusion leads people 
to think that God is in heaven and not near to us, within us. 
Their ego does not let them feel the living presence of God in 
creation, in everybody, and in every single breath. Through 
breath-awareness, a sincere seeker can achieve liberation. 
Restlessness and oscillation is the nature of the mind, but through 
regular practice, self-analysis, and non-attaehment, the state of 
unity and harmony can be experienced. 

Verse 49 

idum tlrtham idam tlrtham 
bhramanti tamasa janah 
atmatlrtham na jananti 
katham mokso varanane 


O Charming One (Parvati), tamasic (ignorant and dull 
witted) people go from one holy place to another in search 
of God, but without knowing the atmatirtha (seat of the 
soul), liberation is not possible. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Most people search for happiness and realization, but they 
fail to follow the path directed by the realized. Without real inner 
transformation, wandering in varied directions does not lead to 
the state of realization. Pilgrimages and dips in holy rivers are 
only an external play. A pilgrimage to a far off place has no 
significance unless the devotee is sincerely trying to change. A 
real pilgrimage is the inner journey that goes from the lower 
centers to the soul center, atma teertha, (place of pilgrimage, 
the soul). Only through this inner growth can a spiritual aspirant 
attain liberation. To achieve this, inner calmness, concentration, 
determination, and complete dedication are essential. 

Verse 50 

na veda vedam ityahuh 
vedo brahma sanatanam 
brahma vidya rato yastu 
sa vipro veda paragah 


The Veda is not only a book, as people think, but is the 
eternal Brahman. One, who constantly dwells in Brahman, 
is the one who is really brahmana. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

As was previously explained in earlier verses, there are four 
major Vedas; Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva 
Veda and four auxiliary Vedas: Dhanur Veda, Gandharva Veda, 
Sthapatya Veda, and Ayur Veda. These books contain both 
ephemeral and spiritual knowledge. 



We also observed that the word Veda comes from the root 
verb vid i.e., ‘to know.’ What is to be known? Without the 
experiential knowledge of Brahman, all other knowledge is 
incomplete. A devotee who has mastered the Vedas, who is immersed 
in the search for Truth, is a vipra — a person with inner purity. 
Lahiri Mahasaya, a great master in the Kriya Yoga lineage, 
pronounced that ‘Kriya is Veda.’ The sincere practice of 
techniques like Kriya Yoga and the constant pursuit of Self- 
knowledge is the true spirit behind the Vedas. 

Verse 51 

mathitva catura vedan 
sarvasastrani caiva hi 
saram tu yogibhih pitam 
takram pivanti panditah 


Churning the four Vedas and all the scriptures, yogis drink 
(enjoy) the essence (butter) of the Vedas while the pundits 
(mere scholars) are happy with the buttermilk of book 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Cream or butter can only be obtained by churning milk or 
yogurt. Once butter surfaces, it cannot be mixed back into milk. 
Allegorically, a devotee should chum one’s life to get the taste of 
Truth hidden within. Once Self-knowledge is attained, it is easy 
to swim in the ocean of the world instead of drowning. Through 
careful study of the four Vedas, a genuine seeker understands 
and accepts their essence, but a foolish one is lost in the maze of 
words and ideas. 



The holy scriptures teach, 

ananta Sastram bahu veditavyam 
svalpasathayuh bahavafca vighnah 

yat sara bhutam tadupasitavyam 
hamsa yatha ksiramivambu. madhyat 

“The scriptures are endless, and life is short. Difficulties are 
many. That which is the essence, should be accepted, as the 
swan alone can separate the essence milk, leaving water aside.” 

Shastra is ‘scripture.’ The word consists of two parts shah + 
astra. Shah means ‘cutter’ and astra is ‘weapon.’ Metaphorically, 
it is a double-edged weapon that frees a seeker from the bondage 
of past and future karmas, allowing one to live in the present 
with strength. Another interpretation of shastra is — shasanat 
shastra ucyate — ‘through discipline, one can wield a weapon.’ 
Just as a king or warrior wields a weapon to eliminate evil, the 
seeker instilling self-discipline acquires a tool of scriptures to 
eradicate ignorance and lead a righteous life. 

An accomplished yogi, through meditation and Self- 
realization, becomes established in the so’ham ‘I am That’ or 
hamsa the ‘swan’ state. Paramahamsa is the highest title given 
to a yogi, meaning ‘supreme swan.’ A scholar is referred to as 
pandita, but superficial scriptural knowledge may enhance ego, 
whereas true knowledge liberates the seeker. A sincere yogi 
knows the inner meaning and message of the scriptures, whereas 
an intellectual scholar is busy with the outward meaning often 
leading to vanity. 

Verse 52 

ucchistam sarva Sastrani 
sarvavidya mukhe mukhe 
no ‘cchistam brahmano jhanam 
avyaktam cetanamayam 




The mere intellectualization of the shastras is of no value. 
The real value of Self-knowledge cannot be expressed, as it 
is inexpressible pure awareness. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse Lord Shiva says, ucchishtam sarva shastrani : 
“All scriptures are like the left-overs on the plate and hence, 
considered impure.” Studying and interpreting the scriptures is 
commonly held in high regard, but the exercise is useless unless 
Truth is experienced. Shiva makes clear that knowledge acquired 
from the scriptures must not. remain only in the mouth, but should 
be internalized as thoughts and feelings. Truth must be realized, 
not just remain an intellectual activity. 

Ucchista means ‘left-overs in the plate after a meal.’ It is 
considered impure and unhygienic. True knowledge of Brahman 
is never unclean; Self-knowledge is always undefiled. 

Spiritual experience transcends mental and intellectual 
interpretation. In a deep state of meditation, a seeker experiences 
the state of reality. This is defined as pure awareness; God is felt 
in everything at all times. 

The Bhairava Damara Tantra describes such anomaly in these 

tamtrartha Sastravyutpatya jnatum gacchati yah puman 
sa evandho vijanlyat uluka iva bhaskaram 

“One who tries to know the meaning of the Tantras and the 
origin of the scriptures, is like a blind person, such as an owl 
searching for the sun.” 

The Kularnava Tantra (1:96) gives a similar interpretation, 



tattvam atmastham ajhatva mudha Sastresu yujyate 
gopah kuksagatam chagam kupe paSyati durmatih 

“Without experiencing the Truth hidden in oneself, foolish 
people search for it in books; like a person holding a goat in 
his hands, and (at the same time) looking at its image in the 


The direct experience of Self knowledge is vital to the supreme 
state of realization. Instead of studying the scriptures, a seeker 
should put them into practice. In the Bible, it is described that 
the scriptures are the Breath of God, therefore with every breath, 
a spiritual aspirant should turn inwards and realize one’s own real 
nature to be free. 

Verse 53 

na tapah. tapah. ityahu 
brahmacaryam tapottamam 
Urddhvareta bhavet yastu 
sa devo natu manusah 


Penance is not penance as it is ordinarily thought of, and 
brahmacharyam (celibacy) is the best of all penances. One 
who is a perpetual celibate is not an ordinary human being, 
and attains godhood. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva speaks of the state of brahmacharya 
to be established in God without deviation. To understand the 
inner meaning of this verse, three concepts need to be clear: 
tapas , brahmacharya, and urdhvareta. 



Tapas means ‘burning,’ ‘warming,’ ‘consumed by heat,’ 
‘causing pain,’ ‘penance,’ or ‘religious austerity.’ In spiritual 
practices, tapas is used as penance to withstand heat and cold, 
hunger and thirst, with endurance, while remembering God. Tapa 
is also derived from the verb taapa, meaning ‘heat.’ Body 
temperature is maintained through the breath. Metaphorically, 
to love and be constantly aware of God in every breath is also 
considered tapas. 

Brahmacharya literally means ‘abstinence’ or ‘perpetual 
celibacy.’ Yet a married person, following certain rules and 
disciplines within married life, can also be considered a 
brahmachari. The inner meaning of brahmacharya is brahma 
vicharana, i.e., ‘to roam’ or ‘to move in Brahman.’ A brahmachari 
undertakes all activities with love for God, without any deviation. 
Thus, brahmacharya has multiple meanings: ‘religious studies,’ 
‘a life of celibacy,’ or ‘self-restraint’ but above all it means 
‘constant awareness of God.’ 

Urdhvareta means urdhva or ‘higher’ and reta or ‘engrossed,’ 
or the preservation of human magnetism in the body.’ In the 
Hindu tradition it is believed that through the practice of regular 
celibacy, a spiritual aspirant inwardly transforms the life-energy 
into ojas, which is translated as ‘human magnetism,’ or 
urdhvareta. A state of continuous cheerfulness, a peaceful 
countenance, and increased vitality, are signs of ojas in a person. 
It is the state of continuous awareness of the higher purpose of 
life, and a mind engrossed in God-consciousness. This state is 
synonymous with ‘perfect evolution.’ 

Verse 54 

na dhyanam dhyanam ityahu 
dhyanam funyagatam manah 
tasya dhyana prasadena 
saukhyam moksam na samsayam 




Dhyanam is not meditation if the mind is not devoid of all 
thoughts. Only through such meditation, peace and 
liberation are obtained. There is no doubt about this. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Dhyana or meditation is the seventh limb described in the 
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Meditation is an art of withdrawing 
consciousness from the mind and the senses and turning it 
towards the source of life, centered in the brain very close to the 
pineal gland. Such concentration enables the seeker to experience 
a state of inner peace and bliss. The highest level of such 
meditation ultimately results in communion with God, known 
as samadhi. According to the Yamala Tantra, 

dhyanam tu dvividha prokta sthula suksma vibhedatah 

sthulam mantramayam viddhi suksmamsca mantravarjitam 

“Meditation is said to be of two types; gross and subtle. The 
gross art of meditation is based on mantra while the subtle is 
beyond mantra. 

In the scriptures it is also said, 

snana mana mala tyajya Sauca indriya nigraha 
abheda darSanam jhanam dhyanam nirvisayam manah 

“A true bath is to purify or cleanse the mind; true purification is 
the control of the senses; true knowledge is the state of unity 
or experiencing God everywhere; true meditation is the state 
beyond thoughts or objects.” 

Regular practice of Self-awareness focuses the mind on the 
goal of life. The tendencies of a restless nature disappear, and 
the state of inner tranquility, peace, and love is achieved. Lord 
Shiva teaches that the true state of meditation is to be immersed 
in nothingness, with the mind devoid of all thoughts. 



Meditation bestows two major benefits: 

i) Saukhyam is derived from sukha\ su means ‘complete,’ ‘good,’ 
or ‘real,’ kha means ‘space’ or ‘sky.’ Sukha is therefore the ‘state 
of happiness that can be experienced in deep meditation.’ At 
this juncture, there is a sense of real freedom from the noose of 
ignorance and delusion. 

ii) Moksha comes from moha kshaya — moha means ‘delusion’ 
and ksha is ‘elimination.’ Moksha signifies ‘the elimination of 
delusion, illusion, and error.’ 

Verse 55 

na homam homam 
samadhau tattu bhuyate 
brahmagnau hiiyate pranam 
homakarma taducyate 


Homam (sacrifice) is not a homam in which samadhi 
(realization) is reached. Homa karma (sacrificial ceremony) 
is that process in which prana (breath) is offered as an oblation 
into brahmagni (the sacred fire). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Through constant practice, devotion, and deep meditation 
the devotee becomes saturated in spiritual experience and enters 
the state of spiritual ecstasy known as samadhi. Dhi means 
‘intellect,’ and s ama means ‘balance.’ Metaphorically, samadhi 
is not a state of intellectualization, rather it is the experience of 
being established in Truth; all duality disappears and only 
complete oneness with God remains. To go deeper in meditation 



and eventually attain samadhi, Lord Shiva teaches the art of 
homa (sacrificial fire ceremony). 

In ritualistic practices, sadhakas perform a fire ceremony in 
the Vedic or Tantric tradition, offering oblations with ghee and 
other materials, into the blazing fire, accompanied by the 
chanting of mantras. 

Tantric practices can be divided into two steps; the 
preliminary step is the practice of mantra and the ultimate step 
is the practice of yoga or meditation. Homa is both; the ritualistic 
offering in the external fire, and the inner offering called 
pranayama, where the oblation of prana or breath is offered to 
brahmagni or the sacred fire in the soul center. In this context 
the seven chakras are symbolically believed to be the seven 
ceremonial fires. 


Name of the fire 


Visvarupa maha agni 













By means of an inner fire ceremony, a devotee practices 
pranayama or a special breathing technique learned directly from 
the guru, offering every breath as an oblation into the brahmagni, 
i.e., the ajna chakra (soul center) and the sahasrara (the crown 
of the head). The practice of pranayama enables a sincere seeker 
to attain the state of deep meditation and ultimately, samadhi or 



Verse 56 

papakarma bhavet bhavyam 
punyam caiva pravartate 
tasmat sarva prayatnena 
tad dravyam ca tyajet budhah 


By papakarma (sinful actions) one acquires sin, and by 

virtuous acts, virtue is earned. Intelligent people make 
every effort to discard both. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Papa (vice) and punya (merit) represent duality: the cause of 
birth and death; happiness and unhappiness; disease and health. 
Papa is literally translated as ‘sin,’ ‘demerit,’ ‘vice,’ or ‘wrong 
action.’ Punya, on the other hand is ‘merit,’ ‘virtue,’ or ‘noble 
deed.’ It has already been mentioned, in the first section of this 
work, how papa and punya (vice and virtue) become the cause 
of bondage. 

Any kind of chain is difficult to break, but even though sinful 
activities bring suffering and should be shunned, virtuous deeds, 
which promote goodness, also prevent a real state of liberation. 

In the Bhagavad Gita (9:21) it is said, kslne punye 
martyalokam viSanti : 

“When the fruits of the meritorious deeds are exhausted, one 
suffers again in the mortal plane.” 

A sincere seeker, whose ultimate goal is liberation, should 
try to be free from the clutches of both vice and virtue. Sarva 
prayatnena: ‘by all efforts’ — by careful and intelligent efforts 
it can be achieved. 



Verse 57 

yavat varnam kulam sarvam 
tavat jnanam na jayate 
brahma jnanam padamjhatva 
sarva vama vivarjitah 


Being born in a high caste or creed does not give 
knowledge. Knowing the source of brahmajnana is beyond 
all caste and creed. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

There is a tendency in human beings to be attracted to name and 
fame; caste and creed; wealth and prosperity. A truly spiritual seeker 
should avoid even the slightest material or worldly comfort. To 
illustrate this point, Lord Shiva speaks of vama and kula. 

Varna — has multiple meanings: ‘colour,’ ‘hue,’ ‘complexion,’ 
‘caste,’ ‘class,’ ‘tribe,’ ‘letter,’ ‘characteristic,’ or ‘sound.’ People may 
be vain about their attractive appearance. Egoistic people cherish 
their station if they happen to be Brahmin or bom within a rich and 
powerful family. If people have a good education or worldly 
knowledge, they are fond of exhibiting this on every possible 
occasion. What most people do not easily recognize is that all of 
the above represent serious hindrances along the spiritual journey. 

Kula — relates to ‘race’ or ‘family,’ a ‘herd’ or ‘multitude,’ but 
it also refers to the body as in ‘body consciousness.’ Around the 
world, ordinary people thrive on their dynastic fame or family 
fortune, but ego, vanity, and pride are the cause of all downfalls. 
A sincere seeker should ruthlessly shun these misguided paths, 
striving to remain in the state of knowledge. Lord Shiva emphasizes 
that in order to evolve in spirituality, vama and kula must be cast 
aside. A brahmajhani or a ‘knower of Brahma,’ a ‘realized one’ 
is free from all limitations, maintaining complete equanimity and 
perceiving the universal soul everywhere and in everything. 



Verse 58 

devl uvaca 

yat tvaya kathitam jnanam 
naham jdndmi Samkara 
niScaya bruhi deveSa 
mano yatra villyate 


Devi said, “I am not able to understand this jnanam 
(wisdom), which you have described, O Shankara. Please 
tell me clearly, Lord of lords, how does the mind get 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse addresses the quest of a seeker in the search of 
knowledge, but Parvati is not asking for theoretical knowledge, 
she seeks practical experience. At the stage where the play of 
the mind is no longer required, the mind is dissolved. 

Each sense has a presiding deity, but all the senses derive 
their strength and energy from the light of the soul. The One 
Soul (Shiva) is devesha, or the Lord of all gods. 

Verse 59 

Uvara uvaca 

mano vakyam tatha karma 
trtiyam yatra villyate 
vina svapnam yatha nidra 
brahmajndnam taducyate 




Ishwara said, “A state in which mind, speech, and action 
are dissolved, and where one experiences the awareness of 

dreamless deep sleep, is the state of brahmajnanam.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Science speaks of the evolution of life on the planet earth, 
while spirituality explains the evolution of consciousness in each 
living being. In this verse. Lord Shiva, refers to the highest state 
of evolution, which is a result of conscious and continuous effort. 

The concept of tri — karana or the ‘three instruments’ 
encompasses thought, speech, and action. The purpose of the mind 
is to think; of speech is to communicate; and of action is to accomplish 
various goals in the material as well as the spiritual world. The three 
concepts, therefore, represent thoughts, words, and deeds. 

First comes the sublimation of the mind and then its 
dissolution. Through the practice of spirituality, impurity in the 
mind is eliminated, allowing the mind to regain its original 
peacefulness. In order to acquire control over speech, it is 
important to speak truthfully, lovingly, and for the good of others. 
It is also helpful to observe silence regularly; this is a training 
ground for the mind and tongue. All activities performed through 
the senses, should be an act of yoga directed towards the union, 
avoiding trouble or disunity. 

The Viveka Chudamani teaches, cittasya shuddhaye karma: 
“All activities should aim at inner purification.” It is essential to 
follow the spiritual teachings of the guru regularly and sincerely 
with love and devotion. Only in this way can a devotee attain 
the state where all the instruments (mind, speech, and action) 
become redundant, or non-existent. 

Lord Shiva compares deep meditation to a dreamless sleep 



as an external allegory to explain the state of the dawn of 
knowledge. If meditation is accompanied by thoughts, it 
becomes similar to a sleep full of dreams. Knowledge of 
Brahman can only be achieved when the sincere meditator, filled 
with inner purity, goes beyond the mind. 

Verse 60 

ekcikl nisprhah Santah 
balabhavah tatha bhavo 
brahmajndnam taducyate 


Remaining secluded; free from desires; peaceful; devoid of 
thoughts and sleep; with the attitude of a child; is the state 
of brahmajhanam. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse offers a concise explanation of the state of Self- 
realization. In order to obtain spiritual evolution. Lord Shiva 
elucidates on the following requirements: 

i) Ekaki means ‘alone’ or ‘secluded.’ Most human beings seek 
the company of each other. Living alone is a painful burden. 
Loneliness brings on sadness and even depression. But a spiritual 
seeker likes to be alone. To live in seclusion is to develop the art 
of Self-mastery. Seclusion becomes the price of greatness. 
Internally, to be free from thoughts is the true meaning of 
seclusion. If the mind is truly free, nothing can disrupt it. 

ii) Nispriha means ‘lack of desires or ambition.’ Expectation is 
the propelling force behind the cycle of birth and death. The 
only way to break this vicious cycle is to ruthlessly analyze the 
needs we have in life and eliminate all unnecessary desires. The 



world is full of transitory worldly pleasures, unless a devotee 
firmly upholds nispriha\ the state of brahmajnanam will always 
be elusive. 

iii) Shanta is equivalent to ‘peacefulness.’ The Sanskrit word is 
derived from the root word shama i.e., ‘control of the mind and 
senses.’ Ordinarily, the mind is turbulent and the senses are 
restless. But rigorous discipline helps to promote the state of 

iv) Chinta vivarjita literally means ‘free from worries and 
emotions.’ Through the practice of breath regulation, inner 
tranquility can be procured. Breath-control leads to mind-control. 

v) Nidra vivarjita means ‘free from lethargy,’ ‘laziness’ and even 
‘sleep.’ Sleep is a state of pervasive ignorance. 

vi) Bala bhava is known as a ‘childlike state.’ Spiritually evolved 
people have a childlike attitude, devoid of worry, expectation, 
or negative qualities. Jesus often said that a child could enter 
the Kingdom of Heaven. 

All these indicators are permanently seen in spiritually advanced 
people who live immersed in a life of completeness and love. 

Verse 61 

Slokardhena pravaksami 
yaduktam tattva-darjibhih 
sarva cinta parityago 
nticinto yoga ucyate 


I will explain in a nutshell all that has been said by seers 
and sages. Yoga is that state where giving up all thought, 
one is established in a thoughtless state. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Tattvadarshi is a person who has experienced the state of 
Truth, becoming established in wisdom. Through the practice 
of yoga and meditation it is possible to secure fulfillment. 

In this verse, Lord Shiva gives a precise explanation of the 
path of yoga. Yoga is not only a path; it is also a way of life. 
Since yoga is the state of complete tranquility, devoid of all 
thought, it automatically leads to the ultimate state of experience. 

Sage Patanjali described yoga in the following terms, yogah 
citta vritti nirodhah : “The art of eliminating thought waves.” 

The Bhagavad Gita has numerous definitions of yoga, 

yogah karmasu kaufolam: “Perfection in action is yoga” (2:50). 
samatvam yoga ucyate: “Equanimity is yoga” (2:48). 

viyogam yoga sangitam: “Separation from duality is yoga” (6:23). 

In the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (2:4), yoga is described as, 
yuktena manasa: “Yoga is the state of uniting the mind with the 

The world and worldly activities are below the ajna chakra, 
in the five lower centers. When the mind is filled with mundane 
matters it becomes restless, turbulent, and ambitious, leading to 
endless activities and conflicting emotions. But if the mind rises 
towards the ajna chakra, becoming peaceful and tranquil, it is 
freed from negative propensities. Once attention is fixed in the 
sahasrara, the mind dissolves into nothingness. 

Lord Shiva defines yoga as the art of the evolution of 
consciousness — from restlessness to calmness, and ultimately 
to the state of samadhi, or complete union with God. Yoga is the 
state of freedom from the restless play of the mind. 



Verse 62 

nimisam nimisardham va 
samadhim adhigacchati 
Satajanmarjitam papam 
tatksanat devi nasyati 


O Devi, if samadhi (realization) is attained even for a 
second or a split second, the sins accrued over a hundred 
births, can be destroyed instantly. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The experience of samadhi can last for a single moment or 
for a prolonged period of time, bringing with it the transcendental 
state of superconsciousness and perfect union with the Absolute. 
Such an experience transforms a person completely. There is 
no longer any separateness, only oneness with God and the entire 
creation, which ultimately brings love and eternal bliss. 

To grasp this point more clearly, two concepts, samadhi and 
papa need more elaboration: 

1) Samadhi is made up of sam +a +dha + kvip. Sam means 
‘completely’ or ‘beautifully,’ a is ‘to bring’ or ‘to uplift,’ dha is 
‘to behold’ or ‘to establish,’ and kvip is ‘the state.’ Therefore 
samadhi means ‘a state where there is complete establishment 
of consciousness in the indwelling Self.’ 

The word has many additional meanings such as ‘collecting,’ 
‘composing,’ ‘concentrating,’ ‘profound or abstract meditation,’ 
‘concentration of the mind on one object,’ ‘perfect absorption 
of thought in one object of meditation, known as the Supreme.’ 

Samadhi also means continuous balance of dhi or ‘the 
intellect,’ a state of perfect equanimity. It is the last limb of yoga 
described by Patanjali. Samadhi can only be experienced as the 
result of sincere practice and deep meditation. 



2) Papam — pati raksati asmat atmanam — means ‘the cause 
of downfall and destruction.’ The literal translation is ‘evil,’ 
‘sinful,’ ‘wicked,’ ‘vicious,’ ‘mischievous,’ ‘destructive,’ 
‘inauspicious,’ ‘malignant,’ or ‘bad fortune.’ 

Individuals are made up of karma accumulated from past 
lives; karma produces punya or ‘merit’ and papa or ‘demerit.’ 
Positive activities breed good results and sinful actions produce 
suffering. Positive and negative karma does not balance or 
neutralize each other. The role of karma has to be played out. 

However, in this verse, Lord Shiva assures his devotees that 
to become established in samadhi, even for a brief second in 
time can give lasting freedom from the accumulated sins over a 
hundred lifetimes. Purity and eternal love are the very essence 
of spiritual life. Encouraging a seeker to go beyond vice and 
virtue eventually will lead to liberation. 

Verse 63 

devi uvaca 

kasya nama bhavet Saktih 
kasya nama bhavet Sivah 
etanme bruhi me deva 
pafcat jnanam prakaSaya 


Devi asked, “Whose name is Shakti, who is known as Shiva, 
O Lord? Please tell me through what (path) is knowledge 

Metaphorical Interpretation 
In this verse, the Divine Mother asks three questions: 



i) What is Shakti? 

ii) Who is Shiva? 

iii) What is the path of knowledge? 

Shakti is derived from the root verb Sak, meaning ‘to be able’ or 
‘capable of.’ Thus shakti is the state of ‘ability’ or ‘capability.’ In 
each living being the life-energy is manifested within the five 
elements, in different ways. Like the nature of fire or the properties 
of water, shakti is the strength that brings activity into life. Shiva is 
the beholder of shakti (energy or strength). Shiva is the Soul. In the 
absence of Shiva (Soul) the body is dead or shava. The path of 
knowledge allows the spiritual seeker to ultimately attain liberation. 

God is the source of infinite knowledge. Knowledge itself is divided 
into paravidya or ‘supreme knowledge’ and aparavidya or ‘material 
science.’ The Mundaka Upanishad teaches that a sincere aspirant should 
strive to acquire both branches of knowledge, yet a desire to learn 
paravidya indicates spiritual progress. Paravidya or supreme knowledge 
should ideally be combined with aparavidya or material science. 

Verse 64 

tivara uvaca 
calat citte vaset Saktih 
sthira citte vaset Sivah 
sthira citto bhavet devi 
sa dehastho ‘pi siddhyati 


Ishwara said, “O Devi, shakti resides in the restless, active 
mind and Shiva resides in the tranquil mind. The state of 
steady memory is itself-Devi (or Parvati). One who is 
established in the tranquil mind becomes realized while 
living in the body.” 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Any external notion is possible due to the activity of 
breathing, an active breath allows human beings to accomplish 
numerous material endeavours. This is the play of energy or 
shakti; the active mind is the seat of shakti, which in turn is 
manifested through the breath. When the breath is agitated, the 
mind is also restless and this is reflected in a chaotic lifestyle. 
But when the breath is tranquil, the mind becomes pacified and 
the seeker is able to experience divinity. Sthira citto bhavet devi: 
“The state of steady memory is itself Devi (or Parvati).” The 
meaning of Devi here is ‘divine illumination.’ 

Once the breath is regulated, the spiritual seeker becomes 
more peaceful, and is able to experience Truth — I am Shiva — 
shivo’ham. This is the reason why Ishwara says, “Shiva resides 
in the tranquil breath and the tranquil mind. Through inner 
tranquility a sincere devotee realizes the Self.” 

Through constant and continuous remembrance of the inner 
Self, which essentially is nothing but Devi (or Parvati), a seeker 
experiences divine illumination. By the practice of breath-control 
and God consciousness in every breath, the spiritual aspirant is 
able to attain the state of realization, while remaining in the body. 
So the art of self-evolution depends upon the regulation of breath 
and the sublimation of the mind. 

Verse 65 

devi uvaca 

kasmin sthane tridha Saktih 
sat cakram ca tathaiva ca 
eko vimSati brahmandam 
sapta patala meva ca 




Devi said, “In which places are the three shaktis, where are 
the six chakras situated, what are the twenty-one 
brahmandas (macrocosms) and the seven patalas (under 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

The questions formulated by the Divine Mother bring further 
light into the hidden spiritual Truth. Previously, Parvati enquired 
about shakti, Shiva and the path of knowledge. In this verse, 
she would like to know more about shakti (energy), the chakras 
(energy centers), and brahmanda (the cosmos). 

The questions addressed to Lord Shiva are: 

i) Where is the seat of the three shaktis ? 

ii) What are the six chakras '? 

iii) What are the brahmandas ? 

iv) Which are the patalas (lower planes) in the body? 

Verse 66 

tfvara uvaca 

urdhva Saktir bhavet kantha 
adhah Saktir bhavet guhyah 
madhya Saktir bhavet nabhih 
Saktydtitam nirahjanam 


Ishwara said, “Urdhva shakti (the energy for upward 
propensities) is in the kantha (neck center), adhah shakti 



(the energy for lower activities) is in the coccyx center, and 
madhya shakti (the energy for moderate activities), is at the 
nabhi (navel center). One who is beyond these shaktis, is the 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

As described earlier, shakti is the energy or consciousness 
permeating all levels of life. The energy or life-force is 
symbolized by the feminine attributes of the Hindu trinity; 
Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destroyer. 
In the body, shakti or energy is divided into three: 

i) Urddhva shakti Energy for evolution, 

ii) Madhya shakti Energy for maintenance, 

iii) Adhah shakti Energy for lower activities. 

Urddhva shakti remains in the upper part of the body, promoting 
spiritual evolution. When consciousness is brought to the higher 
planes of existence, a step forward is made towards the state of 
spiritual evolution. This energy is also known as Mahakali, another 
name for Parvati, the divine consort of Lord Shiva. 

Madhya shakti is the energy that sustains the life-force within 
the body through prana, and is manifested by the breath, the 
intake of food, and the process of digestion and assimilation. 
This energy remains in the middle part of the body, and is 
otherwise known as Mahalakshmi, the divine consort of Lord 

Adhah shakti is the lower aspect of energy, which sustains 
the creative and productive aspects of life, through material and 
sexual experience. This form of energy is concentrated in the 
lower centers and is known as Mahasaraswati, the divine consort 
of Brahma, who assists him in the process of creation. 



Although shakd works in three different ways, it is essentially 
one and non-dual; it is the power of Brahman, the Absolute. 
Brahman is beyond everything, being Supreme and Formless. 

Tri Shakti 
Urddhva shakti 
Madhya shakti 
Adhah shakti 

Place of Manifestation Trinity Name of Divine Consort 

Vishuddha/Ajna Shiva Mahakali 

Manipura/Anahata Vishnu Mahalakshmi 

Muladhara/Svadhisthana Brahma Mahasaraswati 

Verse 67 

adhara guhyacakramtu 
svadhishtanam ca lihgakam 
cakrabhedam maydkhydtam 
cakratitam namonamah 


The muladhara is the bottom center. The genital center is 
svadhisthana. I have explained the different chakras to you. 
Pray to the One, who is beyond the chakras. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva replies to the question regarding 
the six chakras: 

Guhya (anus) 

Linga (genital) 
Nabhi (navel) 
Hridaya (heart) 
Kantha (neck) 
Bhrumadhya (soul) 









The six chakras are the dwelling place of energy and its 
manifestation, action, and enjoyment. But beyond the chakras 
is the Un-manifested, the Absolute, which can be realized 
through shat-chakrabheda — or penetrating into the veil of 
energy and going to the state of chakratita, i.e., beyond 
everything. This is the state of union between Shiva and Shakti, 
the state of absolute awareness. 

Verse 68 

kayordhvam ca brahmalokah 
svadhah patalameva ca 
urddhva mulam adhah Oakham 
vrksakaram kalebaram 


The upper part of the body is brahmaloka and the bottom 
portion is patala. The body is like (an inverted) tree with 
roots at the top and branches hanging down. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The outer universe and the universe within have similar 
characteristics. The entire cosmos is represented within the 
human body. Each body is divided into three parts: 

i) Kayordha the upper part of the body brahmaloka, 

ii) Kaya madhya the middle part of the body bhuloka, 

iii) Kaya adhah the lower part of the body patala. 

The upper part of the body is measured from the midpoint of the 
eyebrows (bhrumadhya) to the fontanel ( brahma randhra). This 
is the location of the sahasrara chakra. A sincere seeker should 



keep one’s concentration fixed on the fontanel, i.e., brahmaloka, 
the abode of Brahman. 

In the last part of the verse. Lord Shiva compares the body 
with an inverted tree. Although the Bhagavad Gita (15:1) and 
the Katha Upanishad (2:3:1) speak of a tree, they never openly 
compare the body with an inverted tree. 

Tree, in Sanskrit, is vriksha, which is derived from the root 
verb vrks — meaning ‘to receive’ or ‘to cover.’ Therefore the 
body is just a cover for the soul. Each human body is an inverted 
tree, the roots remaining at the top and the trunk and the branches 
flowing downwards. The root of life and activities, as well as 
the root of knowledge and liberation, is stored in the upper part 
of the body, which is brahmaloka. The root and the source are 
one and the same. 

Verse 69 

devi uvaca 
Siva Samkara Uana 
bruhi me parameSvara 
das a vayuh katham deva 
daSadvarani caiva hi 


Devi said, “O Shiva, Shankara, Ishana (who remains in the 
vacuum), Parameshwara, Deva, please tell me what are the 
ten vayus (winds) and the ten doors of the body.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse Parvati uses four different names to address Lord 

i) Shiva — shyati papam — One who eliminates vices and is 



always auspicious, bestowing goodness. 

Metaphorically — shava (dead body) + i ( shakti ) is none other 
than the union of body and soul or Shiva. 

ii) Shankara — sham-sukham karoti — One who confers 
happiness or prosperity. 

iii) Ishana — from the root verb ish — ‘to rule’ or ‘to master’ — 
One who is the ‘Lord and the Master of life.’ 

iv) Parameshwara — parama (supreme) + ishwara (Lord) — 
One who is omnipotent and extremely powerful. 

v) Deva — div means ‘illuminating’ as well as ‘formless as the 
sky.’ Deva here represents — One who is formless as well as 
‘divine intelligence.’ 

Parvati’s question about the ten vayus (literally meaning winds 
but metaphorically symbolizing vital breaths), and the ten doors 
in the body is answered in the following verse. 

Verse 70 

Uvara uvaca 
hrdi pranah sthito vayuh 
apano guhya samsthitah 
samano nabhidefetu 
udanah kantham air it ah 


Ishwara said, “There are ten vayus; the vayu (wind) in the 
heart is prana, apana is present in the bottom, samana is in 
the navel, and udana stays around the neck.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse Lord Shiva points out the location of four vayus 



or vital breaths within the body. 

i) Prana: has many meanings such as ‘breath,’ ‘life,’ ‘the vital 
breath that keeps the heart and lungs functioning,’ ‘energy,’ ‘the 
soul.’ Prana, interpreted as the life-force, resides in the heart 
(anahata or heart center). It helps in maintaining life, as well as 
in the digestive process, and keeps the body active. 

ii) Apana: a means ‘not’ and pana means ‘to drink.’ So apana 
means ‘that which is not taken in or inhaled.’ This vayu (breath) 
remains in the muladhara or bottom center, and it is instrumental 
in excretion. 

iii) Samana: literally means ‘making equal’ or ‘balanced.’ This 
vayu has its seat in the manipura or navel center and is essential 
for digestion. 

iv) Udana: literally means ‘breathing upward’— ut ‘upward,’ 
and ana ‘to bring.’ Udana is therefore the vital breath that rises 
from the throat and enters the head. This vayu is seated in the 
vishuddha or neck center. There is a detailed description of this 
prana in the Taittiriya Upanishad. 

Verse 71 

vyanah sarva gato dehe 
sarva gatresu samsthitah 
nagah urdhva gato vayuh 
kurma tlrthani samsthitah 


Vyana is present in all bodies, in the neck region, naga 
moves upwards and kurma is present in the tirthas (sex 




Metaphorical Interpretation 

Lord Shiva describes the seat of three more pranas or vital 
breaths in the body: 

v) Vyana: has no particular area in which it is confined but 
remains rather diffused in the entire body. 

vi) Naga: is one of the vital breaths expelled when there is an 
erection; it is an upward moving prana. 

vii) Kurma: is the vital energy or breath in the abdominal region, 
which influences the menstrual cycle in women and the 
ejaculation of semen in men. It is present in the thirtas or sex 

Verse 72 

krukarah ksobhite caiva 
devadatto’pi jrmbhane 
dhanahjayo nadaghose 
nivUeccaiva Samyati 


Krukarah functions while there is shivering and trembling 
in the body, devadatta is present in (the act of) yawning, and 
dhananjaya is responsible for (making) sound. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 
The last three of the ten prominent vayus (vital airs) are: 

viii) Krukara — is the vital breath in the chest, which regulates 
emotion, and specifically shivering and trembling. 

ix) Devadatta — is the vital energy situated in the lungs, which 
facilitates the act of yawning. 



x) Dhananjaya — located at the throat, this vital air is responsible 
for sound, speech, and conversation. 

Verse 73 

evam vayur niralambo 
yoglnam yoga sammatah 
navadvaram ca pratyaksam 
daSamam manah ucyate 


Those who ascend the path of yoga become independent of 

these vayus (vital airs). The nine doors of the body are 
directly perceived, while the tenth door is the mind. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The breath or in a subtle way prana, regulates the human 
mind and its activities. Yogis who sincerely practice the art of 
breath-control, regulate their life and ultimately ascend in the 
path of yoga. Even a yogi of the highest order uses complete 
control over prana, during deep meditation and samadhi. 

In order to attain such a summit, a yogi has to lead a life of 
self-discipline and complete self-control, while possessing a 
proper understanding of life (knowledge combined with wisdom). 
Self-discipline is a mixture of harmony and moderation. This 
inner awareness is translated in every thought, word, and activity. 

In yogic language, the act of disciplining the mind and the 
senses is known as dvara or ‘the doors of perception and 
expression.’ Lord Shiva explains that each human body is a 
‘temple with ten doors,’ i.e., two eyes; two nostrils; two ears; the 



mouth; the genital organs; and the anus. The tenth door is brahma 
randhra (the fontanel), but in this text Lord Shiva speaks of the 
mind as the tenth door. 

Nine of these doors are related to the sense organs, the external 
instruments of perception and expression. The mind is the 
internal instrument or the inner door of all experiences. When 
the mind is peaceful and focused, the spiritual seeker achieves 
the state of cosmic consciousness. The mind holds the key that 
enables a devotee to reach the state of highest experience. 

Verse 74 

devl uvaca 

nadi bhedam ca bruhi me 
sarva gatresu samsthitam 
Sakti kundalini caiva 
prasuta da£a nadikah 


Devi said, “Tell me about the different nadis (energy 
channels) present in the body and about the kundalini 
shakti, which manifests through the ten major nadis (nerve 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

Once the question of the ten vayus and the ten doors is settled, 
Parvati enquires about: 

i) Nadibedha: the different nadis or pranic channels in the 

ii) Kundalini shakti: the coiled power of the central nervous 
system that permeates through the ten nadis. 



Nadi, in Sanskrit, means ‘tubular organs of the body,’ 
including ‘veins,’ ‘arteries,’ ‘nerves,’ and even ‘subtle yogic or 
pranic channels.’ The location of these passages is known by 
their pulsation or vibratory force. There is difference in opinion 
among yogis regarding the number of nadis in the body. 
Ordinarily, life energy flows down through these nadis, helping 
to accomplish different activities in the body. In each human 
being, a reservoir of spiritual energy lies untapped and hidden 
in a dormant state, which is described as kundalini shakti (literally 
coiled energy). 

Verse 75 

iSvara uvaca 
Ida ca pingala caiva 
susumna urdhva gaminl 
gandhari hasti-jihva ca 


Ishwara said, “Ida, pingala, and sushumna move upwards 
while gandhari, hasti-jihva, and prasara move downwards.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The three major nadis are the ida, the pingala, and the 
sushumna, which are described as the channels of evolution or 
urdhvaga. These three channels are actively engaged in the 
process of breathing, while other nadis are carriers of pranic 
energy. Through the proper art of breathing, as taught by a 
qualified teacher, a devotee can achieve spiritual evolution. 




located in the left side of the spine 
ending in the left nostril 

Chandra nadi (lunar 


located in the right side of the spine 
ending in the right nostril 

Surya nadi (solar 


located in the center of the spine 
with equal breath in both nostrils 

Agni nadi (fire 


located in the left eye 



from the neck to the left foot 



covering the body 

Useful in movement 

Verse 76 

alambusa ya&a caiva 
daksinahge ca samsthita 
kuhufca Samkhini caiva 
vamahge ca vyavasthita 


Alambusa and yasha are present in the right side of the 
body; kuhu and shankhini are in the left side of the body. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

alambusa present in the right part of the 

body, for facial beauty, 

yasha or yasasvini present in the right part of the 

body, for prosperity, 

kuhu present in the left abdomen and 

ending in the genitals, for sexual 

shankhini present in the left abdomen and 

ending in the anus, for excretion. 



Verse 77 

etasu daSanadisu 
nana nadi prasutika 
dvi saptati sahasrani 
iarire nadikah smrta 


These ten nadis give birth to many different nadis and there 
are a total of about 72,000 nadis in the body. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The human body consists of a network of nerves or pranic 
channels. These nerves originate in the brain, or the seat of the soul 
and are distributed to the remaining parts of the body, helping to 
regulate all the different links and their corresponding functions. Nadis 
are instrumental in our perception of the world and play an important 
role in spiritual evolution. Both Tantra and Yoga emphasize the need 
to awaken the latent energy, which lies dormant within the nadis 
(and their respective chakras ), in order to grow spiritually and attain 
a state of altered consciousness or enlightenment. 

In the Upanishads, there is often a difference of opinion regarding 
the quantity of nadis. The following examples illustrate this: 

The Chandogya Upanishad (8:6:6) describes, 

Satam caika ca hrdayasya nadyah 
tasam murdhanam abhinihsrtaika 
tayordhvam ayann amrtatvam eti 
visuann anya utkramane bhavanti 
utkramane bhavanti 

“There are 101 nadis of the heart; one of them leads up to the 
crown of the head. Going upwards through that, one becomes 
immortal; the others flow in various other directions.” 



The Prashna Upanishad (3:6) gives a mathematical estimate: 
“There are 101 principal nadis. To each one of them belong 
100 smaller nadis. To each of these belong 72,000 nadis. Within 
the nadis moves the diffused breath.” 

101 — principal nadis 

101 x 100 = 10,100 smaller nadis 

101 x 100 x 72,000 = 727,200,000 subtler nadis 

In the body, the total number of nadis are 727,210,201. 

The Shiva Samhita (2:13) on the other hand points out, 

sardha laksa trayam nadyam santi dehantare nrnam 
pradhana bhuta nadyastu tasu mukhya caturdaSa 

“In the body of the human being there are 3,500,000 nadis, 
out of which fourteen are important.” 

It should be understood that nadis are interwoven like threads 
in a piece of cloth; pervading the whole body. In this verse. 
Lord Shiva alludes to 72,000 nadis within the body. The fourteen 
most prominent nadis described in the Shiva Samhita are: 

ida, pingala, sushumna, gandhari, hastijihva, kuhu, sarasvati, 
pusha, shankhini, payasvini, varuni, alambusa, visvadari, and 

But in the previous verses, Lord Shiva emphasized only ten 
principal nadis: 

Ida starts in the lower part of the spine, at the 

muladhara chakra and ends in the left nostril. 
This canal can create a feeling of confusion and 
laziness, but also has the ability of regulating the 
mind. The literal meaning is ‘refreshment and 
praise.’ Another name is chandra nadi or lunar 












is situated in the right part of the spine, at the 
muladhara chakra and comes up to the right 
nostril. This canal can create a feeling of excessive 
activity. The literal meaning is ‘reddish brown.’ 
It is also known as surya nadi or solar channel. 

is the channel of fire that runs from the 
muladhara chakra to sahasrara chakra or crown 
of the head. The Sushumna nadi is by far the 
most important, it is also known as moksha marga 
or ‘the path of liberation,’ leading to Brahman or 
the Absolute. The literal meaning is ‘a ray of the 
sun’ (Bhagavatam 2:2:24). 

leads up from the eyes to the ears, literally 
meaning ‘the music and dance of the celestials.’ 
It is described in both the Goraksha Shatakam 
and the Darshana Upanishad. 

runs down from the neck to the big toes. The 
literal meaning is ‘an elephant’s tongue.’ 

runs from the back of the sushumna canal and 
extends to the genital(s) for ejaculation and then 
to the anus for excretion. The literal meaning is 
‘the start of the new moon.’ 

runs from the left ear to the lower centers. The 
literal meaning is ‘female spirit.’ 

regulates the lower abdomen, eyes, ears, and 
mouth. It literally means ‘a line of water.’ 

is located between the pusha and the pingala 
nadis, extending upwards to the ears and 
causing delight in praise. 

pervades in the entire body and stimulates 
movement and the sense of touch. 



Verse 78 

eta yo vindate devi 
sa yogi yoga laksanah 
jnana nadi bhavet devi 
yoginam siddhidayinl 


O Devi, the one who possesses this knowledge is a yogi with 
all the qualities of Yoga. The jnana nadi (the nerve channel 
of knowledge) bestows perfection to the yogi. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The jnana nadi is more commonly known as the sushumna, 
the most important astral passage. It is the central channel through 
which energy or shakti flows to produce samadhi or cosmic 
consciousness. The sushumna goes straight up the interior of the 
spine and is referred to as the path of Brahman. The key to this 
verse lies with the word vindate, which means ‘finding and gaining.’ 
The spiritual seeker who finds the location of the nadis, gaining 
subsequent mastery over one’s activities, becomes a fulfilled yogi. 

A real yogi or tantric knows the play of the nadis and the art 
of mastering their functions. Through the practice of yogic 
exercises and breath-regulation, under the direct supervision of 
the guru, a yogi or tantric acquires self-control and proceeds to 
find union with Brahman, or the Absolute. 

Unfortunately the ida and the pingala create laziness (confusion) 
and restlessness (over-activity), and therefore have a tendency to 
close the path of sushumna. But a sincere yogi, through regular 
practice, will open up the sushumna and roam upwards to the abode 
of Brahman. In the sushumna is a finer corridor called vajrini nadi , 
and inside this is an even more subtle passageway called chitrini 



Vajra means ‘strong determination’ or ‘will-power’ and chitra 
means ‘the shining canal.’ Through navigation of these energy 
channels, a yogi gains perfection. 

Verse 79 

devl uvaca 

bhutanatha mahadeva 
brhi me parametvara 
trayadevah katham deva 
trayo bhavah trayogunah 


Devi asked, “O Bhutanatha, Mahadeva, Parameshwara, 
please tell me who are the three devas (gods), the three 
bhavas (attitudes), and the three gunas (qualities).” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 
In this verse, Parvati addresses her husband as: 

i) Bhutanatha — Lord of the five bhutas or ‘elements,’ such as 
earth, water, fire, air, and space. These elements are found in 
the universe, as well as in the body of all living beings. 
Metaphorically, Bhutanatha is ‘One who brings freedom by 
eliminating the impact of past karma.’ 

ii) Mahadeva — is the great Lord or Lord of liberation. 

iii) Parameshwara — is Supreme Lord. 

She asks about: 

i) traya deva Three devas, 

ii) traya bhava Three attitudes, 

iii) traya guna Three qualities. 



Verse 80 

iSvara uvaca 
rajobhava sthito brahma 
sattvabhava sthito harih 
krodhabhava sthito rudrah 
trayodevah trayo gunah 


Ishwara said, “In rajobhava (activity, restlessness) is 
present Brahma (the creator), in sattvabhava (calmness) is 
Hari (Vishnu the preserver), in krodhabhava (anger) is 
present Rudra (Shiva the destroyer). These are the three 
devas and three gunas. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Bhava is a complex word in Sanskrit, with multiple meanings 
such as ‘status,’ ‘reality,’ ‘condition,’ ‘sincerity,’ ‘devotion,’ 
‘temperament,’ ‘disposition,’ ‘feeling,’ ‘inclination of the mind,’ 
and so on. In this verse bhava indicates ‘nature’ or ‘quality.’ 
The Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the Lords of 
the three aspects of life: creation, sustenance, and destruction. 
Life, itself, is manifested in a cycle — with creation comes the 
need for maintenance, and after a certain lapse of time, creation 
comes to its end and is destroyed in order to be created again 
and again, in a purer form. 

Brahma (Prajapati) Creator Rajas Activity 

Vishnu (Narayana) Sustainer Sattva Calmness 

Shiva (Rudra) Destroyer Tamas Restfulness 

Brahma as creator is a symbol of activity. Activity or 



restlessness is rajasic in nature — rajo ragatmakam viddi — 
rajas produces likes and dislikes, leadings to attachment. 

Vishnu is in charge of the preservation of creation. In order 
to manage this task, calmness is needed to maintain peace, and 
accumulate strength and vitality. 

Rudra (or Shiva) is the destroyer. Some anger is needed to 
dissolve creation. But in the end dissolution can also mean 
liberation as the cycle continues, until perfection is achieved. In 
the yogic scriptures it is said, ye rudrah te khalu pranah: “Rudra 
is none but prana.” In this way Rudra is the cause of death but 
also the means to liberation. In yogic terms, breath-control opens 
the door to Self-realization. 

Krodha — can be understood as ka + rodha, ka means 
‘creation’ and rodh means ‘to block,’ ‘stop,’ or ‘obstruct.’ Once 
activity ceases, there is a state of rest. Through the help of prana, 
a spiritual seeker can cease all activity and attain a state of 
complete rest and calmness, in direct union with the Absolute. 

Verse 81 

eka murtih trayodevah 
nana bhavam mano yasya 
tasya muktirnajayate 


All the three devas: Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara 
(Shiva) are (in reality) one. Those who perceive a 
difference between them, will not achieve liberation. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

Although Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Maheshwara) appear 
to be different due to the diversity in their nature, essentially 
they are one and the same. Just as om is composed of three 
letters, a, u, m, the eternal sound. Ignorance, or dogmatic ideas, 
brings about differences. Multiplicity or diversity implies richness 
of creation. But the sense of duality also becomes the cause of 
bondage, fear, and delusion. To resurrect one from this fear is 
the experience of unity and oneness, otherwise known as 
advaita. It is the state of freedom, peace, and liberation. 

Creation, maintenance, and dissolution are the play of the 
Absolute or Brahman. Each phase merges in the other, to form 
a single entity. A sincere seeker must learn to see divinity, in all 
these different states, to achieve liberation. 

Verse 82 

vlrya rupl bhavet brahma. 

vayu rupa sthito harih 
mano rupa sthito rudrah 
trayo devah trayo gunah 


Brahma is in the form of creative force ( Virya ). Vayu (vital 
breath) is in the form of Hari. Rudra is in the form of the 
mind. The three devas are the three gunas. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, the particular nature of the Hindu Trinity and 
their symbolical location, within the body, is portrayed. Virya is 
the symbol of creation, literally meaning ‘seed’ or ‘semen.’ 



Brahma, therefore, remains in the second lowest chakra in the 
spine ( svadhisthana ), as the presiding deity of reproduction. 
Virya alludes to ‘strength,’ ‘heroic nature,’ ‘vitality,’ and 
‘creativity.’ Brahma, being the Lord of creation, is described as 

Vayu means ‘that which blows.’ Air is constantly in motion; 
the wind blows outside just as the breath flows in and out of the 
body. Breath sustains the life-principle, becoming the most vital 
aspect concerning the preservation of life’s energy within the 
body. Since the lungs and heart regulate the breath, the air 
element resides in the heart center or anahata chakra. This 
chakra is the seat of Vishnu, Lord of sustenance and maintenance. 

The third aspect, Rudra, the Lord of dissolution or liberation, 
is described as mano rupa — ‘the form of the mind.’ Mano is 
derived from maria ‘the mind’. The mind plays a double role: a 
calm mind is the cause of liberation but a restless mind produces 
suffering. The brain is the location of the play of the mind, which 
is limitless. Thus Rudra (Shiva) remains in the region between 
the vishuddha (throat center) and the ajna chakra (the soul 
center), located mid-point between the eyebrows. 

The three deities are related to the three gunas, or modes of 
nature. Each individual has these three qualities ( sattva, rajas, 
and tamas). In the next verse Lord Shiva elaborates on the three 
gunas and their connection to the three deities in the Hindu 

Verse 83 

daya bhava sthito brahma 
Buddha bhava sthito harih 
agni bhava sthito rudrah 
trayo devah trayo gunah 




Brahma is present in the quality of compassion. Hari is 
present in purity, and Rudra is present in the brilliance of 
fire. The three dev as are the three gunas. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The three qualities of the Hindu Trinity are described in this 
verse. Brahma, as the creator represents compassion and is full 
of knowledge and holds no weapons. Energized activity is a 
rajasic quality. When compassion is associated with action, it 
brings forth the beauty of creation. 

Hari, otherwise known as Vishnu, is the symbol of purity. The 
sattvic quality is forever pure. Spirituality can only sprout in the 
purest mind. In order to sustain and preserve creation, love and 
purity are essential. 

Rudra represents the fire quality that illumines, burns, and 
eliminates. Destruction and dissolution are symbolized by fire. 
Dissolution is necessary for creation to manifest once again. 
The physical eyes represent the sun and the moon. The third 
eye, fire, portrays the flame of wisdom; in real wisdom, tranquility 
manifests as a positive form of inertia, bringing peace, and 
calmness. Here the state of inactivity is tamas. 

Verse 84 

ekam bhUtam parambrahma 
jagat sarva caracaram 
nana bhavam mano yasya 
tasya muktir na jayate 


The One Supreme God is present in the animate and 



inanimate world. If the mind perceives differences in these, 
liberation becomes impossible. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The universe is called jagat, meaning ‘that which is constantly 
changing and disappearing.’ Each animate and inanimate object 
constitutes the universe, and each is the reflection of God’s 

In the Isha Upanishad, the first mantra declares, isavasyam 
jagat sarvam: “God permeates everywhere.” 

There is no place, time, or circumstance where God does not 
pervade. A truly spiritual person sees God in all and describes the 
Absolute as parambrahma, or the Supreme Brahman. The Absolute 
has two aspects: saguna and nirguna, ‘with’ and ‘without attributes.’ 
God as the Absolute has no form, qualities, and characteristics. 
When creation began, it was the manifestation of the Cosmic Being 
under all names and forms, possessing different qualities. 

When seekers are able to discern the gold in every ornament, 
they dispel ignorance. They attach no more importance to the beauty 
of the object and its design than to the gold itself. 

In the Katha Upanishad (2:1:10), Lord Yama (Lord of death) 
teaches Nachiketa, mrtyoh sa mrtyum apnoti ya iha nanyeva 
paSyati: “One who sees multiplicity, approaches death.” 

The secret of liberation is to find the presence of God in all 
and remain in the state of knowledge. 

Verse 85 

aham Srsti aham kalah 
apyaham brahmapyaham harih 
aham rudrapyaham Sunyam 
aham vapi nirahjanam 




I am Creation, I am Time, I am Brahma, I am Hari, I am 
Rudra and I am Sunya (vacuum or space). I am Niranjana 
(Colourless and Formless). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse continues and re-emphasizes the foregoing 
argument. I am Creation. Those who see this unison in all aspects 
of creation become liberated. The Upanishads declare — sarvarn 
brahmamayam jagat — or — ishavasyamidam sarvam: “The 
entire universe is God alone.” Since God abides everywhere, a 
spiritual devotee recognizes the truth of God in all and all in 

Not just objects, but time too is God. I am Kala — kala has 
many meanings: ‘that which measures everything,’ ‘the span of 
time,’ ‘the Lord of Death.’ Metaphorically, ka means ‘matter,’ 
‘nature or guna’ or ‘delusion’; whereas la is ‘dissolution’ or 
‘disappearance’ ( laya). In this context, kala is ‘the state of 
freedom from the delusive power of maya.’ Mahakala is another 
name of Shiva, who is the Lord of Time. 

I am Brahman: is a reinforcement of the mahavakya, or the 
great commandment of the Upanishads — aham brahmasmi. 
Brahman means ‘Supreme’ or ‘the Absolute,’ possessing 
greatness beyond all attributes. 

I am Hari: Hari, another name for Vishnu, in scriptures is explained 
as, hari harati papani: “Hari takes away all sins of a devotee.” 

Hari is metaphorically described in scriptures as, 

hakara pingala varna 
sarva varna varottama 
rakara teja varnasyat 
ikara .§akti dayakah 



Hakara, which means the syllable ha, illustrates a molten 
copper colour (which is considered a superior colour), rakara 
or the syllable ra depicts its brilliance, and ikara or the syllable 
i connotes bestowal of energy. In meditation a seeker experiences 
many types of colours. To experience union and the formless 
stage during meditation is to be in Hari. 

I am Rudra — Rudra is another name for Lord Shiva, but in 
this context it stands for prana, the principle of life in every 
living being. In every breath, the vital air or prana is circulating 
in the body, creating an inner vibration experienced during 

I am Sunya (vacuum or space) and Niranjana (colourless 
and formless). During the process of creation, the vacuum — 
formless space — was the source from which all other elements: 
air, fire, water, and earth, emerged. In essence, Sunya refers to 
the role as ‘Father’ of creation. Here Sunya also represents the 
cosmic sound, the primordial sound that is heard during 
meditation. Such statements are the product of deep meditation, 
not an intellectual theory. 

Verse 86 

ahatn sarvatmako devi 
niskamo gaganopamah 
svabhava nirmalam bantam 
sa evahatn na samsayah 


O Devi, I am the Soul in everyone, without desires, pure 
and tranquil, all-pervading like the sky. There is no doubt 

about this. 



Metaphorical Interpretation 

I am the Soul in everyone — within the Vedic scriptures it is 
stated, sarvatmake brahmani pumarupe: “I am the soul, the Brahman 
in all, in my completeness.” Each individual or embodied being has 
a soul, and that soul is essentially divine; it is otherwise known as 
Shiva. The soul’s energy is always pure, never tainted or polluted. 

I am free from all desires — desires become the shackles of 
bondage. When individuals are submerged in a state of ignorance, 
they suffer from a flood of desires stemming from the mind. The 
mind, harnessing the sense-organs, wishes to enjoy and possess 
countless objects. The soul, however, is ever pure and free. The 
body and the mind are prone to agitation and restlessness, but the 
soul remains permanently in a state of peaceful bliss. 

I am all-pervading like the sky. The space enclosed between the 
walls and the roof gives an impression of the existence of a room, 
but when the walls are removed, it becomes open space again or 
the sky. Likewise, the soul in the body is like the space inside the 
walls, in reality it was always part of the infinite sky. A body has 
gross, astral, and causal walls; and these sheaths can be removed 
through Self-realization, a way to experience formlessness. The 
nature of the Soul is existence, consciousness, and bliss. 

Verse 87 

jitendriyo bhavet suro 
brahmacarl supanditah 
satyavadi bhaved bhaktah 
data dhiro hite ratah 


He is the real hero, who having victory over the senses is 
brahmachari (celibate), supandita (a man of wisdom), 



satyavadi (truthful), bhakta (devoted), data (charitable), 
and dhira (calm). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Sura — is a ‘hero’ who has achieved thorough control over 
the restless senses. In both the Upanishads and the Bhagavad 
Gita, the senses are described as turbulent horses that agitate 
the mind. The senses, if used correctly, are not really obstacles. 
Once the mind has been tempered and the senses given proper 
use, they can become fine instruments to promote spiritual 
evolution. Mastery over the senses can be gained through 
discipline and self-control. 

Brahmachari — is a seeker whose mind is always engrossed 
in Brahman, God. The intellect is the vehicle that allows the 
spiritual aspirant to reach the state of wisdom. The term used in 
this verse is supandita. Pandita is a scholar of the scriptures or 
a theologian. Supandita is a person whose knowledge is not 
limited to books but to a deeper understanding of life. Supandita 
is a man rich in wisdom and Self-knowledge. 

Satyavadi — refers to a highly evolved person, who never 
flinches from truth. In the Yoga Shastras, there is an elaborate 
description of being established in truth — “speak truth, speak 
it sweetly, and speak it with love.” A truthful person is full of 
devotion. God has blessed every individual with many talents, 
which must be used not only for enjoyment and pleasure but 
also for the good of others. 

Dhira — literally means ‘calm and quiet.’ Dhi stands for 
‘intellect’ and ra is translated as ‘fire’ or ‘wisdom.’ Dhira is a 
seeker, whose intellect is saturated in knowledge. Such persons 
are never agitated, or aggressive, instead they are immersed in 
a permanent state of tranquility and love. 



Verse 88 

brahmacaryam tapomulam 
dharmamulatn dayasmrta 
satyavadi bhavet bhaktah 
daya dharmam samacaret 


The root (basis) of tapa is brahmacharya (celibacy), the 
basis of dharma is daya (compassion) and satyavadi 

(truthfulness) is the basis of devotion. Follow the path of 
compassion and righteousness. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Brahmacharya tapomulam — the foundation stone of spiritual life 
is discipline and self-control. Brahmacharya also means ‘continence 
and abstinence from excessive indulgence.’ Tapa means ‘penance,’ 
‘austerity,’ and also ‘conscious breathing.’ The root of spirituality is to 
be conscious, in every breath, of the presence of God inside and outside, 
becoming free from the pull of emotion and ego. 

Dharma is ordinarily translated as ‘religious.’ Dharma is not 
necessarily only a religious concept of moral duty or universal 
law, but the basic principle that upholds life. Daya alludes to 
transmitting love and being compassionate. In this context, 
dharmamulam dayasmrta means ‘being true to one’s own Self.’ 
Spiritual seekers should have self-control over their nature and 
be able to manifest love and compassion in every action. 

In spiritual terms, there is nothing greater than compassion 
and nothing worse than anger. Thus, through calm and conscious 
breathing, a sincere seeker should avoid anger and dwell in a 
state filled with love and devotion for God and God’s entire 
creation. This is the true spirit of dharma. It is also Reality, Truth, 
Brahman. Truthfulness in life is the practical art of spiritual life. 



Verse 89 

devi uvaca 

yogeSvara jagannatha 
umayah prana vallabha 
veda sandhya tapo dhyanam 
homakarma kulam katham 


Devi said, “O Yogeshwara, Jagannatha, beloved of Uma, 
what are the Veda(s), sandhya(s) (evening rituals), tapa(s) 
(penance), dhyanam (meditation), homa karma (fire 
rituals), and kulam (energy).” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Parvati addresses Lord Shiva with meaningful 
names that carry a special significance: 

Yogeshwara — means ‘Lord or Master of Yoga.’ A true yogi 
is a befitting teacher who explains the meaning of life and the 
symbolic content of the scriptures. 

Jagannatha — can be broken into two words — natha means 
‘Lord,’ ‘master,’ or ‘husband’; jagat means ‘the changing 
universe’ or ‘nature.’ Essentially, the allegorical meaning is that 
the Lord of the universe is beyond changes, even though the 
nature of the universe is to constantly evolve. 

Umayah prana vallabha — means literally ‘beloved to Uma as 
her breath.’ Uma is another name for Parvati: It is no coincidence that 
Uma and Om have the same origin. Om consists of three syllables a 
u m, and Uma also consists of the same letters uma. Om symbolizes 
Purusha or God and Uma represents prakriti or Mother Nature. 

Parvati then asks about various scriptures as well as rituals, 
and mantras obligatory for an individual. 



As mentioned before, the Vedas are considered humankind’s 
ancient treatises on wisdom, classified into four scriptures: Rig, 
Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. Each Veda consists of a mixture between 
ceremonial rituals and spiritual wisdom, otherwise known as 
Upanishads or Vedanta. In Sanskrit, Veda is derived from the root 
word vid, ‘to know,’ an aptitude inherent to each individual. Since 
the ultimate form of knowledge is Self-knowledge, the Vedas 
indicate the path, the means to achieve the goal of Self-realization. 

Sandhya — has a variety of meanings: on a primary level, 
sandhya is ‘evening,’ derived from the root-word sandhi or 
‘junction of time.’ There are three junctions of time — early 
morning, noon, and evening — these are known as trisandhya 
or three propitious times for ritualistic practices. Metaphorically, 
sandhya can be interpreted as ‘balance’ — a state of balance 
between the mind and the breath. Allegorically, sandhya can be 
linked to samyak dhyana or perfect meditation during the three 
junctions of time. 

Tapa — is defined as ‘austerities’ or ‘penance’ undertaken by 
a mendicant, in order to fortify spiritual life and achieve perfection. 
Tapa can also mean ‘sacrificial practices’ in order to achieve siddhis 
or occult powers. Metaphorically, tapa symbolizes conscious 
breathing and directing the mind towards the highest goal. 

Dhyana — literally means ‘meditation.’ The word is derived 
from the root dhi ‘intellect.’ Meditation is to direct the intellect 
consciously towards the goal of Self-realization. Dhyana can 
also be interpreted as a meditative examination of Truth. 

Homa — is a ritualistic fire ceremony offering an oblation of 
ghee and other materials into the holy fire, a ritual often 
accompanied by specific prayers or mantras. 

Kulam — means ‘energy’ hidden in each individual. But in 
spite of its tremendous potential, this energy lies untapped. 



Through the practice of self-discipline, a seeker can utilize energy 
to achieve the highest purpose of life. 

Verse 90 

i&vara uvaca 
aSvamedha sahasrani 
vajapeya Satani ca 
brahmajnanam samam punyam 
kalam narhanti sodaSim 


Ishwara said, “Compared to the greatness (derived from) 
knowledge of Brahman, the virtue earned by performing a 
thousand ashvamedhas and a hundred vajapeyas, is only 
equal to one sixteenth of it.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva speaks of the completeness of Self- 
knowledge or the knowledge of Brahman. Self-knowledge is 
the yogi’s supreme attainment, and can only be achieved through 
self-discipline and sincere contemplation. 

In ancient times, highly evolved persons, sages, or emperors, 
who achieved unparalleled success in their lives, performed 
Vedic rituals called yajnas or sacrifices to glorify the state of 
union with Brahman. These yajnas: 

i) Ashvamedha yajna, 

ii) Vajapeya yajna, 

are described in the Ahsvamedhika Parva, Bhagavatam 
(3:12:40), and in the Mahabharata. 



Ashvamedha yajna literally means ‘horse sacrifice.’ This 
special ritual was performed to establish the supremacy of a 
powerful ruler over other kings. Such yajna involved years of 
arduous preparation and elaborate ritualistic performance. But 
on spiritual and metaphorical level, ashva refers to ‘the senses’ 
and medha ‘to slay’ or ‘to offer.’ Ashvamedha means to control 
the senses, offering each one to God and behold God through it. 

Ashva can be interpreted as ‘restlessness.’ Ashvamedha, in 
figurative terms, means to sacrifice restlessness in order to 
experience calmness. Ashva also indicates the number ‘seven’ 
and symbolically represents the seven chakras. So ashvamedha 
has been interpreted as the offering of the seven chakras to God, 
remaining in God-consciousness. 

Linguistically, ashvamedha can be broken into two 
components: a means ‘not’; shva means ‘tomorrow.’ It teaches 
the spiritual aspirant not to postpone until tomorrow what can 
be done today. A seeker, who utilizes time intelligently to reach 
the goal, is blessed with divine grace. 

Vajapeya yajna literally means ‘to drink water’ — vajam is 
‘water’; peya is ‘to drink.’ Metaphorically, vajapeya yajna 
signifies to bring inner purity and love into everyday life. The 
goal of such practices is to acquire knowledge of Brahman. 

In this verse Shiva emphasizes the superiority of the 
knowledge of Brahman over multiple traditional sacrifices. 
Divine wisdom is the greatest achievement. 

Verse 91 

sarvada sarva tlrthesu 
tat phalam labhate Sucih 
brahmajhanam samam punyam 
kalam narhanti sodaSim 




Compared to the knowledge of Brahman, the virtue earned 
by constantly going on pilgrimages to all the holy places is 
only equal to one of the sixteen kalas (parts). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Going on pilgrimages to the four corners of India is an 
important part of Hindu tradition. Those who can afford, do it 
to collect merit. In this verse Shiva, once again, states the 
importance of :he knowledge of Brahman, establishing its 
superiority over the merit gathered by pilgrimages. 

In the Skanda Purana, there is a beautiful description of the 
holy places of pilgrimage, 

satya tlrtham ksama tlrtham tlrtham indriya nigahah 
sarva bhuta daya tlrtham tirthanam satyavadina 
jhana tlrtham tapas tlrtham kathitam saptathlrthakam 

“Truthfulness, forgiveness, sense-control, compassion for all 

beings, knowledge, and austerity are known as the seven 
teerthas (holy places of pilgrimage). People go on 
pilgrimages to attain spiritual merits and purify the mind. A 
real pilgrimage is to experience inner peace and love. 
Through the cultivation of virtues and the practice of 
meditation, a seeker gets realization.” 

A crucial element on the search for Self-knowledge is suchi 
or purity. In the Katha Upanishad, purity is described in the 
following way — One who knows the Self is really pure. The 
highest feat in life is the attainment of Brahmajhana or 
‘knowledge of the Absolute.’ In this state, existence becomes 
an unbroken flow of peace, love, and bliss. 



Verse 92 

na mitram na ca putra£ ca 
na pita na ca vandhavah 
na svami na gurostulyam 
yaddrstam paramampadam 


Friend, son, father, relative, or husband, none is equal to 
the guru, who has realization of the Absolute. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In spiritual life, the need for an enlightened guide, to show 
the way is essential. Nothing in the world can be compared to 
the guru-disciple relationship, which is eternal. When spiritual 
aspirants have implicit faith, love, loyalty, and devotion for the 
guru, they are already pointed towards Self-realization. The real 
guru, however, is the soul within. 

A caring guru has multiple roles: 

- The guru is mitra or ‘friend’ because he always stands firm 
in the hour of need, showering his love and affection; 

- The guru is putra or ‘son’ because he protects the weak 
from downfall. In spiritual terms a guru helps his disciples to 
become free from sins and suffering; 

- The guru is pita or father because he disciplines his children 
with love. A successful guide keeps his offsprings on the right 
track, by making them conscious of their duty; 

- The guru is a bandhava or ‘close relative’ because he helps 
to free his kin from bandhana or bondage; 

- The guru is a swami, ‘Lord’ or ‘husband,’ because he 
constantly gives his care, love, guidance, and support. A guru’s 
devotion and compassion are limitless. 



Scriptural or theoretical knowledge is not enough to be a 
realized guru. He needs to have the direct experience of Truth. 

A guru is — yad drshtam paramam padam — ‘one who has 
realized the feet of the Lord’ (achieved the goal of life). 

Verse 93 

na ca vidya gurostulyam 
na tlrtham na ca devatah 
gurostulya na vai ko’pi 
yaddrstam paramampadam 


There is no vidya (knowledge), no holy place or any gods 
equal to the guru, who has realization of the Absolute. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse elaborates further on the distinct role of the guru, 
comparing him to vidya (knowledge), teertham (holy places), 
and even devata (gods). The guru possesses a storehouse of 
wisdom enabling him to steer a disciple towards a higher level 
of spiritual experience. The guru personifies God’s love and 
wisdom. A devoted disciple who follows the guru’s instructions 
incorporating them in daily life, will reap more benefits than by 
visiting all the holy places. 

In the Guru Gita it is said, 

gururbrahma gururvisnur gururdevo mahesvarah 
guruh saksat parambrahma tasmai fri gurave namah 

“The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu, the guru is Shiva, 
and the guru is Parabrahma, the Supreme Lord. I bow to the 




Verse 94 

ekamapyaksharam yastu 
guruh Sisyat prabhodhayet 
prthlvyam nasti tat dravyam 
yat dattva arnlm bhavet 


(Even the) Knowledge of one letter imparted to the sishya 
(disciple) by the guru (teacher, divine master) is 
invaluable, and there is nothing in the whole world that 
can repay this debt. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The guru is the mouthpiece of spiritual wisdom, which he 
transmits to a befitting student. Sincere disciples, who are ready 
to transform their life through self-discipline and dedicated 
service, will gain unlimited spiritual treasure. 

As we grow up in the world, we learn many things from 
countless different sources; parents, brothers and sisters, children, 
friends, teachers, and even from nature itself. We are indebted 
by the most insignificant morsel, for even just one letter is crucial 
to incrementing our understanding. 

Another meaning of ekamapyakshara — even one letter — 
is described in the Gita (8:19), “The single syllable Om is the 
source of all knowledge, and the symbol of God.” 

Within all yogic and tantric practices, the guru teaches his 
disciples to understand the significance of the primordial sound 
Om and to listen to it continuously, while immersed in deep 
meditation. This sacred syllable bestows immense calmness and 
opens the door to God-realization. The illuminated master 



awakens the consciousness of his students, by igniting the spark 
of spirituality within. This knowledge brings understanding 
eventually transforming it into wisdom. Such endowment forms 
a permanent bond between the guru and the disciple. It is an 
un-repay able debt. 

In the scriptures, there is a description of five types of debts 
that each individual should strive to repay: 

Deva runa 

debt to God, 

Rshi runa 

debt to the masters. 

Pitru runa 

debt to the parents, 

Nru runa 

debt to humanity, 

Bhuta runa 

debt to creation as a whole. 

Five offerings or 

activities help to redeem such debt: 

Deva yajna 

Offering oblations to God, 

Brahma yajna 

Imparting spiritual knowledge to 
worthy seekers, 

Pitru yajna 

Rendering tribute to departed family 

Nru yajna athiti 

seva Serving the needs of our fellow 
human beings, 

Bhuta yajna 

Preserving ecological balance by 

protecting animals and the 

It is harder to repay the immense debt that disciples have 
with their guru than any of those listed above. If a dedicated 
disciple reaches the goal of Self-realization, the debt to the guru 
actually increases. Service to God and gurus must always be 
performed with the utmost humility and love. 



Verse 95 

yasya kasya na datavyam 
brahmajnanam sugopitam 
yasya kasyapi bhaktasya 
sadgurustasya diyate 


The well-kept secret knowledge of Brahman should not be 
given to undeserving people. This should be imparted by the 
Sadguru only to one who shows real devotion. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

A guru has a duty to maintain the sacrosanct nature of the 
knowledge he hands down to posterity. Spiritual knowledge 
must be revealed only to trustworthy disciples. In Vedantic texts, 
there is a description of adhikari or the ‘qualified disciple.’ 

A sincere student must possess the following qualities: 
Viveka discrimination, 

Vairagya non-attachment, 

Shama equanimity of mind, 

Dama control over the senses, 

Uparati desire for growth or evolution, 

Titiksha forbearance or tolerance, 

Shraddha faith and love in the teaching of the guru 

and the holy scriptures, 

Samadhana contemplative outlook, 

Mumukshutva desire for liberation. 

Lord Shiva dictates, brahmavidya sugopitam: “Keep spiritual 



knowledge free from abuse and adulteration.” In other words, 
such precious gift should be kept hidden. Knowledge in the 
hands of an unfit person is as dangerous as a scientific discovery 
in the hands of a ruthless individual, or fire in the hands of a 
child. A worthy disciple is rare to find; one must be loyal, sincere, 
devoted, faithful, and selfless. 

Verse 96 

mantra puja tapodhyanam 
homam japam balikriyam 
sannyasam sarva karmani 
laukikani tyajet budhah 


All the traditional rituals like mantra (chanting), puja 
(worship), tapa (penance), dhyanam (study), homam (fire 
ceremony), japam (chanting), bali kriyam (the act of 
sacrifice), and sannyasam (renunciation), are given up by 
the one who is really wise. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse. Lord Shiva refers to the most frequent rituals 
undertaken as a daily routine and are the foundation of spiritual 
life. But as the devotee evolves in the quest of truth, these 
observances lose their poignancy leaving room for a much 
deeper communion with the Absolute. 

The definition of such practices is the following: 

i) Mantra — mananat trayate iti: “That which helps in 
liberation through contemplation.” Mantra is a sacred 
formula or prayer chanted overtly or silently. To be 



effective, a mantra has to be properly transmitted 
by the guru. 

ii) Puja — is derived from the word puj ‘to worship,’ ‘to 
adore,’ or ‘to bow.’ Puja is a form of ritualistic worship 
requiring flowers, fruits, and so on. Puja can be external 
or mental. In order to perform mental ritualistic worship, 
a focused mind is essential, rendering other articles and 
utensils useless. 

iii) Tapa — means ‘penance’ or ‘austerity.’ The ability 
to sacrifice or mortify the body in a certain way 
brings discipline and sense-control. 

iv) Dhyana — is ‘meditation.’ There are two types; 
saguna dhyana (meditation on a form) and nirguna 
dhyana (meditation on the formless). 

v) Homa — is ‘a ritualistic oblation into a ceremonial 
fire,’ which is performed with the proper chanting 
of mantras. 

vi) Japa — is ‘chanting’ either overtly or silently. 

vii) Bali kriya — is ‘sacrifice.’ As an external form of 
worship, devotees offer fruits or animals. In inner 
worship, a spiritual seeker destroys the inner animal 
qualities, such as anger, jealousy, and pride. 

viii) Sannyas — is the renunciation of worldly activities 
and possessions. 

Devotees who have attained absolute wisdom become free 
from all traditional rituals, because they live in a state of inner 
awakening. A truly spiritual person is liberated and enlightened 
and is known as buddha, ‘the incarnation of wisdom.’ As one 
reaches the destination, the means of conveyance, or outer 
accruements, are no longer useful. 



Verse 97 

samsargat vahavo doHah 
nihsangat vahavo gunah 
tasmat sarva prayatnena 
yatih sangam parityajet 


Vices are accumulated through association with others. 

Non-attachment promotes good qualities. So by every 

effort, and through self-control, one should give up all 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

In the same way that clothes get dirty, the mind becomes 
polluted in the company of evil-minded people. The person is 
known by the company one keeps. For a spiritual aspirant, bad 
company makes it easier to fall into the grasp of vices, whereas 
good company helps the best qualities within and keeps the 
mind engrossed in elevated thoughts. Such company protects 
the mind from the lure of the senses. 

Thus Acharya Shankara describes the benefit of good 

satsangatve nissangatvam 
nissangatve nirmohatvam 
nirmohatve nischala tattvam 
nischala tattve jivanmuktih 

“Good company encourages detachment. Detachment frees 
one from delusion. Freed from delusion, one achieves steadiness 
to experience Truth. Such an experience liberates one while still 



Association with bad company breeds many vices; one can 
learn much wickedness from the company of others. A sincere 
seeker should try to live completely detached. By living alone 
and secluded the spiritual aspirant can progress on the road to 
self-improvement. The Bhagavad Gita teaches, aratir jana 
samsadi: “Feel no attraction for public gatherings.” The true 
renunciate or yati should try, in every possible way, to be free 
from social activity. Yati is defined as samyatayati iti, ‘one who 
tries to discipline life.’ 

Metaphorically, a devotee should try to avoid any association 
that distracts the sense organs, and enter into the cave of the 
cranium or the sahasrara chakra, to experience seclusion, and 
taste perennial bliss. 

Verse 98 

akarah satviko jheya 
ukaro rajasah smrtah 
makarastamasah proktah 
tribhih prakrtirucyate 


In sum, the letter a represents sattva, u represents rajas 
and m represents tamas, which are the three qualities of 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

This verse explains the sacred syllable Om (a urn) as a combination 
of the three modes of nature. Nature or prakriti can be of three types: 
sattvic (calm), rajasic (restless), and tamasic (idle). When these three 
modes of nature are in balance, creation or change ceases. The dance 
of nature begins when there is imbalance in these three qualities. 
The predominance of the sattvic factor brings calmness, peace, and 
pure happiness. The rajasic factor brings forth more activity, effort, 



endeavour, and achievement. The tamasic factor is evident in 
laziness, lethargy, sleep, or inertia. 

Om consists of three syllables: a u m and these three represent 
sattva, rajas, and tamas, respectively; a is the first syllable in the 
Sanskrit alphabet, representing ‘God’ and ‘Creation’; u is the fifth 
vowel, representing ‘progressive existence,’ and m is the last of the 
fifth group of consonants, representing ‘knowledge in five chakras.’ 

The Play of Prakriti 













prithivi (earth) 







(inner space) 








savita (sun) 








(indwelling Self) 


(pole star) 

Verse 99 

aksara prakrti prokta 
aksarah svayam iSvarah 
iivaranirgata sahi 


The akshara (alphabet) is prakriti (nature), akshara 
(imperishable), and Ishwara. From Ishwara (God) comes 
prakriti (nature), who is associated with the three qualities. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In the Bhagavad Gita (15:16) there is a beautiful description 
of kshara, akshara, and purushottama. Kshara consists of two 
parts: ksha and ra. Ksha means ‘that which undergoes 



modification and changes,’ ra is the root word for ‘fire.’ Kshara 
therefore means ‘perishable.’ The prefix ‘a’indicates negation: 
a + kshara means ‘imperishable.’ 

The fire element in each letter of the alphabet, has the power 
to bum or to illuminate. Words can bum ignorance and remove 
darkness. They can also bring pain if they are not used properly, 
since fire’s nature is to burn. Since each letter or akshara has 
the ability to bring knowledge and understanding, sacred 
knowledge is imperishable. 

Kshara or ‘perishable’ is prakriti. Prakriti symbolizes 
‘creation,’ ‘the material world,’ ‘the psychological field within 
the body,’ and ‘the lower chakras.’ Akshara is Ishwara or Lord 
Shiva, who is by nature imperishable. The Bhagavad Gita 
declares that kutastha, the place between the eyebrows ( ajna 
chakra), represents the place of akshara, the immutable. From 
Ishwara ( atma ) comes the manifestation of the material world, 
from the ajna chakra descend the five lower chakras. 

Taittiriya Upanishad teaches, etasmat atmano akasha 
sambhuta: “From the Self (Absolute) came space.” 

Prakriti symbolizes Mother Nature composed of triguna or 
the three modes of nature. If devotees remain below the ajna 
chakra, they will become engrossed in the material world and 
forget divinity manifested within. If spiritual aspirants 
concentrate in the ajna chakra or sahasrara chakra, they can 
achieve the state of liberation and complete oneness with the 

Verse 100 

sa maya palini Saktih 
srsti samhara karini 
avidya mohini yd sa 
sabdarupa yafasvini 




O Yashasvini (Glorious One), maya is the palini shakti 

(nourishing and preserving energy), the cause of srishti 
(creation) and samhara (dissolution), and it is also 
ignorance and delusion. (Yet, the same) maya manifests as 
the divine sound. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Maya is the basis of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. 
Maya is often considered as both the delusive and illusive power 
of nature, depending on the seeker’s level of enlightenment. 
But, maya can also be understood as ma (the Divine Mother) 
and ya (existence). In other words, it is the play of the Divine 

Maya is the understated energy in living beings. Maya creates, 
upholds and is the cause of play and pleasure throughout 
creation. Maya is sometimes correlated to avidya, which is 
defined as ‘ignorance’ or ‘lack of knowledge.’ At other times, 
maya is ‘desire’ or ‘passion’ known as kama. This is a reflection 
of the rajasic quality of nature. Maya has also been interpreted 
as mohini which means ‘puzzle,’ ‘delusion,’ or ‘infatuation.’ 
Therefore, maya is the power that creates confusion. This 
corresponds to the tamasic quality of nature. 

At a different level the most fundamental manifestation of 
maya, and the core of its illusive power, appears when the seeker 
is immersed in deep meditation, totally engrossed in a peaceful 
state of mind. At this point, maya comes in the shape of the 
divine sound. It is by listening to this primordial echo, linking a 
devotee to God, that a state of inner tranquility is reached. This 
is otherwise known as the sattvic state of mind. 





Sattva Vaishnavi Peace Calm Shabdarupa Sthiti 

(Sound) (Creation) 

Rajas Brahmani Activity Restless PaliniShakti Shristi 

(Protective) (Sustenance) 

Tamas Shivani Delusion Lazy Mohini Samhara 

(Illusive) (Dissolution) 

This is described in the yogic scriptures, 

dhvanirantargatam jyoti 
jyotirantargatam manah 
tanmanovilayam yati 
tad visno paramampadam 

“When one goes deep into sound, (one) experiences light 
within. Within the light, the mind becomes purified. That pure 
mind dissolves at the Supreme Feet of the Lord.” 

Verse 101 

akarascaiva rkveda 
ukara yajurucyate 
makara samavedastu 
trisuyukta pyatharvanah 


The letter a is Rig Veda, u is Yajur Veda, and m is Sama 
Veda. All three together (aum) make the Atharvana Veda. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Earlier Om is defined as akshara purusha, or the imperishable 



Soul within the body, the manifestation of Brahman within the 

On another level Om is the primordial echo — the root of 
creation, sustenance, dissolution, and ultimately liberation. All 
knowledge: para and apara, manifests itself from this sound. 
Om is the continuous divine vibration consisting of the three 
syllables a u m. This sacred resonance encompasses different 
steps of evolution and spiritual experience. 

The universality and all pervasiveness of Om is further 
emphasized here in this verse. Om is the source of the four Vedas; 
a symbolizes the Rig Veda (or the path of knowledge through 
speech); u represents the Yajur Veda (or the path of union that 
brings emancipation); m is the Sama Veda (or the path of 
harmony); a u m put together becomes the Atharva Veda (or the 
path of happiness and bliss). 

Verse 102 

omkarastu pluto jfieyah 
trinada iti sajnitah. 
akarastvatha bhurloka 
ukaro bhuvarucyate 


Omkara is full to the brim with these three sounds: a 
represents the bhur loka (the earth) and u the bhuvar loka 
(the subtle world). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Not only the complete compendium of knowledge, the four 
Vedas, Om envelops the creation process and the cosmos. Om is 



the divine vibration that can be heard in deep meditation and 
contemplation: the omnipresent sound irrespective of time, place, 
and causation. This eternal and continuous resonance fills the 
heart with divine love, and the mind and intellect with divine 

The lokas are the regions or levels of existence of living beings 
in any given world. In this verse. Lord Shiva describes how the 
Om sound pervades everywhere: a represents bhur loka or the 
physical level and u represents bhuvar loka or the subtle world. 
In the Gayatri Mantra, there is a description of bhur, bhuvah, 
and svah loka, or the three planes of existence. The highest of 
the three regions is the svah loka and it is considered to be a 
heavenly world. In this verse, Lord Shiva only mentions the 
two vowels: a and u, m the consonant is mentioned in the next 

Verse 103 

savyanjanam akarastu 
svarlokastu vidhlyate 
aksaraih tribhiretai&ca 
bhavet atma vyavasthita 


The consonant m represents the svah loka. The soul is 
manifested in these three letters. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

M in Sanskrit is not only a consonant but it represents all the 
twenty-five types of consonants from ka up to ma. Speech, words 
or thoughts are nothing but a combination of consonants and 



vowels. However, when a seeker meditates on the source of all 
sounds (Om or Aum), all thoughts and mind disappear, and the 
meditator becomes focused in one sound and merges in the state 
of superconsciousness or the cosmic conscious state. 

At this higher level of consciousness, the spiritual aspirant 
transcends the seven planes of existence within the seven 
chakras, and ultimately becomes established in the Self, in the 
sahasrara chakra or the crown of the head. This is known as 
atma-vyavasthiti, or ‘the state of complete establishment in the 

Verse 104 

akarah prthivi jheya 
pita varnena samyutah 
antarlksam ukarastu 
vidyutvarna ihocyate 


Know that the letter a is the earth which is yellow in colour, 
(and) the letter u is the antariksha (the inner sky) which has 
the colour of lightning. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse. Lord Shiva teaches that by penetrating the 
chakras to flow upwards into the inner space, the meditator will 
be able to experience divine illumination. The muladhara 
chakra is the place of the earth element, which flashes a yellow 
coloured light representing the letter a. With the practice of a 
yogic technique, such as Kriya Yoga, the spiritual seeker 
concentrates on the inner space, in the cavity of the cranium, 



and internally sees the brilliance of light made up of different 
colours, ascending from the lower chakras. When antariksha 
(the inner sky) is reached, representing the letter u, the seeker 
experiences a reddish bright light. In yogic language this is known 
as ‘the soul-fire.’ 

Verse 105 

makar svariti jheyah 
fuklavarnena samyutah 
dhruvam ekaksaram brahma 
omityevam vyavasthitam 


Know that the letter m is svar loka (which is) white in 
colour. Brahman is decidedly a u m, in which everything is 


Metaphorical Interpretation 

As spiritual seekers enter deeper into meditation, reaching 
the heavenly blissful state, they see all traces of coloured light 
dissolving into a white haze. This is m or svar loka known as 
the heavenly world. At this point sincere devotees experience 
divine light, divine sound, and the cessation of all thoughts. 
This is the state of dhruva or ‘steadiness in the north.’ Dhruva 
symbolizes the polestar, alluding to the fact that a seeker must 
search the extreme north in the inner sky to become merged in 
akshara Brahman. 

In the Bhagavad Gita (8:13), Lord Krishna teaches, om iti 
ekaksaram brahma: “This is the state when one is completely 
free from body consciousness and merges in divine love.” 



Verse 106 

devi uvaca 

sthulasya laksanam vrhi 
katham mano villyate 
paramartham ca nirvanam 
sthula siiksmasya laksanam 


Devi said, “What are the qualities of the gross body; how 
does the mind become dissolved? Also tell me about 
paramartham (the supreme goal), nirvana (liberation), and 
the qualities of gross and subtle.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Parvati asks Lord Shiva the last set of questions, 
pertaining to the following subjects: 

i) The qualities of the gross body, 

ii) The dissolution of the subtle body (mind), 

iii) The supreme goal of life, 

iv) Nirvana, or the ultimate state of liberation. 

Each soul is enclosed in three layers of existence: physical, 
subtle or astral, and causal. Through proper understanding and 
disciplined practice, seekers manage to make progress on the 
spiritual path and are able to discard attachment to the physical 
and astral bodies. Thus, they reach liberation. 

Ordinary people remain engrossed in the body and in the 
material world, slaves to the sense organs. The purpose of life is 
not artha (material possession) or kama (pleasure through 
enjoyment); the supreme goal of life (paramartha) is nirvana or 
liberation. This waveless state implies the cessation of all thought, 
in order to reach complete communion with God. 



Verse 107 

tfvara uvaca 
yena jnanena he devi 
vidyate na ca kilvisl 
prthivyapastatha tejo 
vayurakaSameva ca 


Ishwara said, “By this knowledge, O Devi, one is free from 
all sins and the elements like earth, water, fire, air, and ether.” 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In this verse, Lord Shiva glorifies supreme knowledge. 
Ignorance leads to repeated mistakes, a life of misery and 
bondage tied to the chain of birth and rebirth. Knowledge 
removes the darkness of ignorance granting liberation as well 
as immortality. Knowledge bestows freedom from sins and 
suffering; it is the fire that bums up all the seeds of karma. 

Human beings contain earth, water, fire (sun), air, and sky, 
the same elements that constitute the external world. These five 
elements are also present, in a subtle way, in the five spinal 
centers (chakras). By the inner purification of the mind, and 
through persistent self-effort and the divine grace of the gum, 
spiritual seekers are able to experience Truth. 

Verse 108 

sthula rupl sthito ‘yamca 
suksmam ca anyathasthita 




One who is in the sthula rupa (the gross body), is also in the 
sukshma (the subtle body) and even beyond. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

The all-pervading God (Brahman) is present in the gross, 
astral, and causal worlds, inside and outside. In the process of 
spiritual evolution, a seeker’s consciousness travels to the astral 
layer. When awareness reaches the causal level, it is merged in 
the eternal Self. Once this process is culminated, the seeker is 
saturated in supreme knowledge, and experiences the presence 
of the Absolute at every instance, in everything. This 
transformation is known as liberation. 

Verse 109 

sthirasano bhavet nityam 
asu sa jayate yogi 
nanyatha Siva bhasitam 


Shiva says there is no other way of becoming a yogi, except 
by sitting in a firm posture and constantly meditating, 
devoid of thought(s) or sleep. 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

In these last two verses Lord Shiva summarizes his final 
instructions in order to achieve self-evolution. 

i) Sthirasano bhavet — sthira means ‘steady’ or 



‘equipoise’; asana refers to ‘the posture’ or ‘the seat.’ 
Metaphorically, this means to sit in a fixed posture to meditate 
for a longer period of time. The regular practice of yoga and 
meditation brings discipline to the body and the mind. Steadiness 
in practice is an essential ingredient in reaching Self-realization. 

ii) Nityam — is ‘constant.’ Metaphorically, this means to 
be unwavering by becoming well established in the soul. 

iii) Nidra — vivarjitah alludes to ‘the calmness of the mind 
before falling asleep.’ Sleep is an obstacle to spiritual pursuit; laziness 
and the excessive need for sleep must be conquered in order to 
reach the goal. Metaphorically, sleep is the state of ignorance. 

iv) Be a yogi — the devotee follows the direct guidance of 
a qualified guru and becomes a yogi. Only a yogi can achieve 
emancipation and knowledge. This is the true meaning of Self- 

Verse 110 

ya idam pathate nityam 
Smvati ca dine dine 
sarva papa vi&uddhatma 
Sivalokam sa gacchati 


One who reads or listens to this every day, will be freed 
from all sins, becoming pure and attaining shiva loka (the 
abode of Shiva). 

Metaphorical Interpretation 

Every holy book in Hinduism begins with a prayer and ends 



with the glorification of the scriptures known as phala sruti. 
Holy books should be assimilated, understood, and put into daily 
practice, but theoretical erudition is not enough. Sincere aspirants 
must be free from all impurities to be able to merge in God- 

This is the path to reach shiva loka or climb Mount Kailasha, 
hidden amid the internal snow-peaked Himalayas. Once divine 
energy is manifested, all propensities of the mind dissolve and 
the purpose of life is complete. 

Through self-discipline, immersed in deep meditation, seekers 
enter the state of superconsciousness, or perfect union with the 
Absolute. A pure mind is the abode of God. 

om brahmarpanamastu 

Let this work be offered to God 



There is a symbiotic relationship between life and learning. 
Life is an opportunity to learn; and real learning consists of 
mastering the art of living. Different spiritual traditions encourage 
discipline to attain the ultimate purpose of life: to evolve one’s 
consciousness, to feel peace within. Modem educational system 
focuses on pragmatic issues of material success, but ignores the 
quintessential aim of human existence. Most religious traditions, 
however, pivot around this noble cause. 

Yoga and Tantra are such ancient spiritual disciplines intended 
to instruct seekers on the spiritual path. These sacred teachings 
have been handed down from time immemorial and are 
composed of various revered texts of spiritual wisdom with a 
practical application and implications. Besides imparting 
thorough theoretical knowledge, the texts focus on practical 
application enabling seekers to experience the essence. 

Jnana Sankalini Tantra is in verse form and consists of a 
philosophical and esoteric dialogue between Lord Shiva and 
his consort, Parvati. The divine pair in their love, dedication, 
and unity also symbolizes the relationship between a master 
and the disciple, God and the spiritual seeker. 

Practice with implicit faith and love is the only way to reach 
perfection. In order to attain such divine goal of inner 
transformation a spiritual guide is necessary. The guide’s 
teaching applied to daily life builds a strong foundation and 
paves the way to ultimate enlightenment. 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali declares that sincere seekers, 
full of love and devotion, should practice and follow the 
instructions of the teacher until they are firmly established in a 
state of permanent communion with God. 



In both Yoga and Tantra, the direct guidance of an inspiring 
teacher is considered essential to eliminate negative qualities 
and pointing the way to spiritual enlightenment. Life’s goal is to 
attain and constantly struggle, if necessary, for inner perfection 
and emancipation. 

I was blessed with such a guru. My master, Paramahamsa 
Hariharanandaji, taught that an ounce of practice was better than 
a ton of theories. He always maintained that a steady and steadfast 
practice is a prerequisite for spiritual evolution. 

My Guruji, a symbol of love, devotion, and selfless action 
lived an exemplary life. Under his careful guidance, I studied 
and meditated on a wide range of spiritual texts. He helped me 
transform from within as my consciousness evolved. 

Gurudev inspired this book and I started writing it in 1997 
and it took great effort to bring it in the present form. Although 
this work could not be published during his physical life, every 
line is imbued with his divine presence. 

I bow to my guru, and to my guru’s gurus. 

May this work remain a tribute to their teachings. 




Glossary of Sanskrit Words 





Adhyatma vidya 





Ajna chakra 




Akshara tattva 




a form of ritual, in which water, milk 
and other substances are poured on the 
deities with mantras. It is also practiced 
while initiating a disciple into the path of 

mode of practice, conduct, discipline 
master, teacher, a person established in 
good conduct 
qualified disciple 

spiritual wisdom from the scriptures or 
from the teacher 

first guru, usually another name for Shiva 
state of unity and oneness, a branch of 
Indian Philosophy 

the supreme knowledge of Shiva taught 
to Parvati, Tantra 

no darkness or fear, literally a special 

tantric practice 

ego, attitude of doership 

the third eye, in the medulla oblongata, a 

place of concentration in between the 



space, sky, ether 

syllable, alphabet, imperishable, soul 
the philosophy of letters 
Lord Shiva 

The name of a city where the three holy 
rivers, Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati 
meet. It is one of the places where the 
Kumbhamela takes place every twelve 



Anahata chakra 






Apara vidya 

Ary av arta 

Atharvana Veda 

Atma tirtha 











dorsal or heart center 

one that is beyond words, it represents 

soul, God and even maya 

inner soul 

inner light in the crown of the head 
inner sky 

substituted materials 
water element 

material knowledge, material science, 

worldly experiences 

lower point, the Shiva principle 

lower sound or vibration 

another name of the ancient India, the 

abode of Aryans 

the fourth Veda 

soul, the indwelling spirit 

seat of the soul 

ignorance, nescience 

the un-manifested Bhagavad Gita 

A spiritual handbook; in the battle of 

Mahabharata, the scripture of Yoga, 

dialogue between Shri Krishna and 


A sacred scripture of 18,000 verses 

written by Sage Vyasa 

the attendants of Shiva 

devotion, a path of experiencing love for 




god as creator, the first Lord of the Hindu 

abstinence or perpetual celibacy 












Damara Tantra 














Dik tattva 




Ganapatya Tantra 

divine fire 

knowledge of the Absolute, highest state 
of wisdom 

God, the Ultimate Absolute, the Formless 

universe in the shape of egg 

manifested power of God 

path of spiritual evolution practiced in Tantra 

a spiritual center, wheel, disc, energy centers 

in spine and brain 


right hand or favorable path, a tantric practice 
tantric text 
kettle drum 

Philosophy, the path of direct experience 


the body 

male form of God, the illumined one 
the indwelling Self, ‘God of all gods’ 

the Soul, the Lord of gods 
female form of God 
discipline, divine law 
scripture of ethics and morality 
meditation, contemplation 
study of scriptures 
principle of ten directions 
spiritual initiation, instruction 
Divine Mother 
door, entrance 

deity of success and wisdom, son of Shiva 
and Parvati 

tantric text dedicated to Lord Ganesha as 
the principal deity 




holy river in India 


clarified butter 


Parvati or shakti 


qualities in the body 

Hindu Trinity 

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva 


offering oblations into the holy fire with 

Homa karma 

sacrificial ceremony 


pranic channel on the left side of the spine 


organs of perception, instruments of mind 


an epithet of Shiva 

Ishta devata 

personal deity 

Ishta mantra 

personal mantra 


the Supreme Soul, the ruler of the 


the universe 


guru of the universe, the Divine Mother 


ritual repeated recitation of mantra 

Japa mala 


Jar a 

old age 


the individual soul 

Jiva tattva 

principle of the individual 


union between kundalini shakti with 
parama shiva 


first step of prajna, acquisition of spiritual 

Jhana kanda 

the path of knowledge 

Jhana pada 

path of Self knowledge 


knowledge, wisdom 


principle of time, death, the lord of death 


one of the names of the Divine Mother 

Kara mala 

counting of mantras with the fingers as 


action, duty, the law of cause and effect 



Karma kanda 
Kaula chara 

Khechari mudra 


Kriya pada 






Lord Parama Shiva 






Manipura chakra 


Mantra chaitanya 
Mantra shastra 
Mantra vidya 




the path of action 

son of Lord Shiva and Parvati 

practice according to Kaulas, a tantric 


tongue pointed towards the fontanel 

“Who Am I?” 

path of spiritual practice 

the last letter in Sanskrit alphabet 

earth element in the body 


latent spiritual energy in a person 

Bhattaraka the master of 18 vidyas 

intermittent thought process, middle 
the great epic scripture of India authored 
by Sage Vyasa, comprising the Gita 

the supreme Lord 




lumbar center 

holy syllable or prayer 

awaking consciousness through a mantra 

the science of mantra 

the science how to use a mantra 

churning milk or yogurt 

the basis of creation, sustenance and 

dissolution, illusion 


investigation, deep reflection, a branch 
of Indian Classical Philosophy 
liberation, the final goal of life in 




Mount Kailasha in the Himalayas the abode of Lord Shiva, a 
place of pilgrimage for the Hindus 
Mudra position of body and hands 

Muladhara chakra coccyx center 

Nada the first primordial sound 

Nadabrahma a sound symbol of the Brahman 

Nadi energy channel, pranic channel in the spine 

Navakula nine aspects of life 

Neem tree (margosa) holy tree in India 

Nigama The Vedas 

Nihilists Buddhists, who believe that nothingness 

leads to the state of final emancipation 
or enlightenment 

Nimitti karana efficient cause 

Niranajana Formless, Brahman 

Nirguna parameshvara God without attributes 

Nirvana liberation in Buddhism 

Niti Shastra scriptures on values, morality, and ethics 

Omkara the letter a u m 

Pada step, the pillars, foot 

Padma lotus, chakra 

Pancha devata puja the five principal deities, Ganesha, Durga, 
Surya, Vishnu, and Shiva 

Panchavati five holy trees of the Hindus 

Panchabhutas five elements 

Panditah scholars in scriptures 

Papa sin 

Papakarma sinful actions 

Para supreme 

Para vidya supreme knowledge, supreme spiritual 


Parabindu upper point 

Parama guru superior guru 

Paramashiva the Supreme Shiva, unity with the 




Supreme Self 
supreme soul 

Paramesthi guru 

absolute guru 


the supreme principle 


un-manifested sound or vibration 

Parapara guru 

supreme guru 


supreme knowledge 


the divine consort of Lord Shiva and his 


worthy disciple 

cognition, the second aspect of sexual 



nether-land one of the several levels of 


lower planes of existence 

pranic channel on the right side of the 

Prajna or prajhana 




material cause, nature 

Prakriti tattva 

principle of nature 


the vital breath, vital air, primal energy, 


life force 

breath regulation, special breathing 



consecrated food, food offered in the 

Prayaga raj 


the royal confluence of the three holy 


rivers, a place in North India known as 

ritual of worship, adoration 


merits, virtues, noble deeds 


mythological books in India composed 


by Sage Vyasa 

scriptures composed by Sage Vyasa 


a special practice of Japa 


Brahman, the indwelling spirit 




a branch of Indian Philosophy 


a quality of restlessness and activities in 
human beings 


scripture narrating the life and activities 
of Lord Rama 



Rig Veda 

one of the four Vedas 


epithet of Shiva 


spiritual aspirant, seeker 


spiritual practice 

Sadhana shastra 

practical spiritual texts 

Saguna parameihvara 

God with attributes 

Sahasrara chakra 

fontanel, crown of the head 




with form and attributes 

Sama Veda 

one of the four Vedas 


state of communion with God, realization, 
superconscious state 


scripture of Tantra 


evening ritual 

Sapta dhatus 

seven ingredients or essences in the 
human body 


the third holy river in India (invisible) 


the process of creation 

Sarva devata 

all deities 




a name of the Supreme God, existence- 


a quality of calmness in human beings 

Sattvika jhana 

pure knowledge 


state of happiness 


lunar, peace, beautiful one 


solar, related to the sun 


the six limbs or auxiliaries of the Vedas 



Shakti (Parvati) 

Shambhavi mudra or 













Svadhisthana chakra 


Tantrika mantra 








Triveni sangama 

Upadana karana 

practice centered on Lord Shiva 

worshipper of the Divine Mother 

the creative power of Brahman, divine 

energy, Divine Mother 

vidya open-eyed meditation, wisdom of 



God as destroyer, the third Lord of the 
Hindu Trinity 

vacuum, space, sky, nothingness 

path of contemplation and meditation 

perfection and revelation 

disciple, follower 

Code of Law, memory 

the throb, vibration 

creation (vibration or energy) 


sun god 

the central channel in the spine 
sacral center 

the quality of inertia and laziness in a 

a system of spiritual practice 
mantras used in tantric practice 
penance, austerity, self-mortification 
principles or elements 
metaphorical language in literature 
divine qualities, a holy place 
fire principle 
holy place of pilgrimage 

the confluence of the three holy rivers, 
the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati 
material cause 

initiation, teaching, instruction 

the last part of the Vedas, also Vedanta 

a region in the Himalayas 




















Vishuddha chakra 



Yajur Veda 




the spoken audible word 
practice centered on Lord Vishnu 
words, statements 
a special tantric practice 
epithet of Vishnu 

the breath, air, prana; god of air/wind 
vedic practice 

Upanishads, a branch of Indian Philosophy 

the most ancient and holy scriptures of 

the Hindus 


root and seed mantra 

second step of prajna, applied knowledge, 


deliberation and discussion 

destruction, dissolution 

creative force, semen 

withdrawal of the life-principle, dissolution, 


God as sustainer, the second God of the 
Hindu Trinity 
cervical center 

the worshippers of Lord Vishnu 

the manifested form, manifestation of 


one of the four Vedas 

holy river in India 

geometrical shape used in tantric 

practices and rituals 

a branch of Indian Philosophy, esoteric 


Yogapada art of self-discipline 

Yoga Sutras of Patahjali aphorisms on yoga as described by 
Sage Patanjali 



About the Author 

Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, the current head 
of the Kriya institutions started by Paramahamsa 
Hariharananda, has taken on his Master's mission 
of bringing the ancient secret teachings within the 
reach of common people who are thirsting for 
spiritual knowledge. Paramahamsa Prajnanananda 
was bom in 1960 in the village of Pattamundai in 
Orissa, India. He has always been a sincere seeker 
of truth. After a childhood filled with prayer and a youth enriched by 
education joined with meditation, the former Triloki Dash became a 
caring teacher as a professor of Economics and guided and inspired 
many of his students spiritually. 

As a college student, through an unquenchable thirst for God, he 
met many saints and visited many ashrams in the Himalayas, looking 
for a spiritual guide. While still a student, he met his master 
Paramahamsa Hariharananda, who initiated him into the path of Kriya 
Yoga. Brahmachari Triloki Dash was later initiated into the glorious 
path of Sannyas by his master, becoming Swami Prajnanananda 
Giri. On August 10, 1998, on his 39th birthday, the title of 
Paramahamsa, the highest title reserved for monks who attain the 
summit of realization, who are inspired and divine teachers, guides 
and saints, was conferred upon him by his loving and divine master 
Paramahamsa Hariharananda. 

A truly powerful and extremely loving teacher, author and speaker 
on world religion, well versed in the scriptures of the East and West, 
he combines a divine compassion for humanity with his love for God 
and his mastery of complex philosophical thoughts. His vast 
knowledge and his oratory and intellectual skills are fully utilized in 
interpreting deep philosophical thoughts in the light of modem science 
and psychology. His metaphorical interpretation of the scriptures is 
very unique. Using Kriya Yoga as a reference point and an 
interpretative tool, Prajnananandaji manages to reveal the hidden 
truths contained in the most complex passages of the sacred texts in 



ways which make the meanings relevant and helpful in our daily 

With thought-provoking statements and revelatory explanations, 
quotations from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, and incidents from 
the lives of great souls, Paramahamsa Prajnanananda distils the 
wisdom of the ages into clear, relevant instructions on leading a moral 
and spiritual life in the world today. Without being overly pedantic, 
yet incorporating the texts of countless scriptures within his lectures, 
Paramahamsa Prajnananandaji does what most religious teachers 
stop short of doing and what most of us are thirsting for: he gives 
step by step methods for achieving self-realization. Gearing his 
lectures to the modem world of East and West, peppering them with 
colourful anecdotes, in his humorous yet compassionate style, with 
constant words of encouragement to those who must continue to 
live in the world, he guides disciples with the love of a mother. To 
those who are baffled by the vastness of ancient scriptural wisdom, 
the clear, concise and immensely helpful hints and guidance he 
provides, helps to make sense of book learning. 

The power of his teachings lies in their simplicity and direct 
relevance to our lives. He teaches one of the simplest truths of the 
scriptures. One needs not only the desire for salvation, but also the 
guidance of the Gum and the regular practice of meditation and then 
and only then comes realization. 

Paramahamsa Prajnanananda teaches only one lesson: the lesson 
of love. Through not only the study of scriptures, and the practice of 
meditation, but through every action and every breath, he urges us 
to realize that we are all divine and to achieve that blissful state of 
divine love and contentment, through basic self-discipline and the 
practice of simple yogic principles. 

His loving guidance and deep compassion have won him the 
devotion and faith of countless disciples around the world whose 
lives he has transformed. 




by Paramahamsa Hariharananda 
Kriya Yoga ISBN 81-86713-05-0 

Bhagavad Gita in the Light of Kriya Yoga, Volume I: ISBN 0-9639107-0-1, 
Volume II: ISBN 0-9639107- 1-X, Volume HI: ISBN 0-9639107-2-8 

Isha Upanishad 

by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda 

Mahavatar Babaji: The Eternal Light of God, ISBN 81-86713-06-9 
LahiriMahasaya: Fountainhead of Kriya Yoga, ISBN 3-901665-22-6 
Swami Shriyukteshwar: Incarnation of Wisdom, ISBN 3-901665-234 
Paramahamsa Hariharananda: River of Compassion, ISBN 3-901665-24-2 
The Lineage of Kriya YogaMasters ISBN 3-902038-13-6 
My Time with the Master, ISBN 3-902038-08-X 

Discourses on the Bhagavad Gita, Volume L ISBN 3-901665-25-0, Volume II, 
ISBN 3-901665-26-9 

The Torah, The Bible and Kriya Yoga, ISBN 81-86713-00-X 
The Universe Within, ISBN 3-902038-144 
Yoga: Pathway to the Divine, ISBN 3-901665-21-8 
The Path of Love, ISBN 3-902038-07-1 
Life and Values, ISBN 3-902038-09-8 
AksaraTattva, ISBN 81-87825-02-2 

Nava Durga: The Multiple Forms of the Mother ISBN 3-901665-28-5 



Nectar Drops: Sayings of Paramahamsa Hariharananda ISBN 3-901665-01-3 

Words of Wisdom: Stories and Parables of Paramahamsa Hariharananda, 
ISBN 3-901665-00-5 

Krishna Katha, ISBN 1-931733-00-7 

A Successful Lifestyle, ISBN 1-931733-03-1 

Daily Prayers, ISBN 1-931733-02-3 

The Changing Nature of Relationships, ISBN 3-902038-10-1 

Prapanna Gita, ISBN 1-971733-01-5 

Daily Reflections, ISBN 3-902038-12-8 

Gautama Buddha, ISBN 3-902038-16-0 

The Body’s Dance The Soul’s Play, ISBN 3-902038-17-9 

JnanaSankalini Tantra, PB ISBN 3-902038-18-7, HB 3-902038-20-9 




Kriya Yoga is a direct gift from God. The modem revival of 
Kriya Yoga began in 1861 by Mahavatar Babaji and has been 
handed down to this day through the master-disciple method of 

Most of us live with a conception of God as omnipotent, 
omnipresent and almighty, but few are searching for God within 
ourselves. More so, we do not feel the living presence of God 
within us through our daily chores and duties. Kriya Yoga can 
make us feel the living presence of God through breath-control 
and meditation. Any work, kri, is done by ya, the indwelling 

The modem revival of this technique has brought ancient secret 
teachings within the reach of householders and families who 
are searching for lasting peace and happiness, and who are 
hungry to know God. This form of meditation can be added to 
enhance one’s religious and spiritual practice. 





Kiiya Yoga Institute 
24757 SW 167th Avenue 
P.O. Box 924615 
Homestead, FL 33092-4615 
Tel: +1305 2471960 
Fax: +1 305 2481951 


Hariharananda Gurukulam 


Puri 750002 


Tel/Fax: +0091 6752 246644 
Tel/Fax: +0091 6752 246788 


Kriya Yoga Centre Vienna 
Pottendorferstrasse 69 
A-2523 Tattendorf Austria 
Tel: +1 43 2253 81491 
Fax: +143 2253 80462 

Kriya Yoga Centrum 
Heezerweg 7 
NL-6029 PP, Sterksel 
The Netherlands 
Tel: +31 40 2265576 
Fax: +31 40 2265612 



With the passage of time, the real meaning 
of Tantra was misunderstood. From a highly 
evolved spiritual science Tantra was demeaned 
as a tool for magical or occult power or an 
enhancer of sensual enjoyment. 

Tantra is none of these. It is an ancient 
discipline that provides a vast learning, a deep 
understanding of life, and a methodology to 
attain Self-realization. 

Jnana Sankalini Tantra is a beautiful and 
meaningful dialogue between Lord Shiva and 
his consort, Parvati. In tantric practices, both 
Shiva and Parvati are worshipped together. 

since the former represents consciousness and 
the latter, in the form of shakti, symbolizes 

In tantric meditation, inner bliss can be 
obtained by arousing energy latent in 
humankind, and uniting it with Shiva. Tantra 
uplifts consciousness in order to embrace the 
cosmic spirit. 

ISBN 3-902038-18-7 

93902 038189 >